MANILA, Philippines – Norwegian and U.S. law enforcers have helped the Philippines capture a man they say exploited children by having them join sex videos which he then showed to paying foreign clients online, officials said Friday.
National Bureau of Investigation Director Dante Gierran said Norwegian and U.S. law enforcers joined Filipino authorities in a raid Thursday that led to the arrest of the suspect, Anselmo Ico Jr., and the rescue of five of his alleged minor victims in a poor village in Malolos city, north of Manila.
Such arrests and rescues in the Philippines point to lucrative crimes in which children, even toddlers, are made to remove their clothes and touch themselves in obscene ways while adults, often their parents, train video cameras on them in exchange for payment from pedophiles and other customers abroad.
Philippine police have collaborated with their counterparts in Europe, Australia and the U.S. to investigate, hunt suspects and prosecute them to fight a crime that thrives in poverty, unemployment and other dire social conditions.
"In Norway, the transnational crime of sexual exploitation of children is highly prioritized and we're glad to see that your cooperation in this case so far has given us such tangible results," Norwegian police official Sidsel Isachsen said at a news conference in Manila where Ico, a Filipino, was presented in handcuffs.
Norwegian anti-crime officials notified their Filipino counterparts in early January about the arrest of a Norwegian citizen, Ketil Andersen, who allegedly purchased child sex videos made in the Philippines, Gierran said in a statement.
Norwegian crime investigators took over Andersen's Skype accounts to communicate with his contacts in an effort that led them to Ico, Gierran said, adding that a private group, the International Justice Mission, helped authorities with the case.
When asked by The Associated Press for his reaction, Ico acknowledged he produced the sex videos in which children participated but said the sex acts were staged.
"That's fake news. It's not real ... because it can be staged easily," Ico said as he was led away.
The suspect will be charged with violating laws against human trafficking, child abuse, child pornography and cybercrime, Gierran said.
Such crimes are increasing in the Philippines because of easy access to the internet and English fluency among many Filipinos, making it possible for suspects to communicate with would-be customers.
Associated Press journalist Bullit Marquez contributed to this report.