Warning: Distressing content
A New Zealander is among the victims of a “sadistic” British paedophile who targeted thousands online, blackmailing them into degrading themselves and abusing others before he shared the videos online in what is described as an “industrial scale” operation.
Abdul Elahi, 26, of Birmingham, admitted a staggering 158 offences against 79 victims from around the world, including New Zealand.
Elahi would masquerade as a wealthy man online, using so-called “sugar daddy” websites to target vulnerable victims.
He would them convince them to send revealing images, often using fake screenshots of money to convince his victims they would be paid.
The UK’s National Crime Agency says there were at least 196 victims in the UK and that he had contacted at least 600 people online in the UK alone.
Elahi had also tried to contact 1367 women in the United States and there were victims in 20 other countries including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Once he had them hooked, Elahi would move his victims to What’s App where he would blackmail them, threatening to send the images to family and friends.
He would then force his victims to degrade themselves in depraved ways, including self-mutilation.
He also blackmailed women to send him video of them abusing young children and making young girls abuse their sibling, the National Crime Agency said.
He then made the abuse available online, making around $50,000 as a result, in what police said was offending on an “industrial scale”.
New Zealand Police became involved in 2020, after receiving information from the National Crime Agency (NCA), Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Dalziel told the Herald.
Dalziel, the officer in charge of the NZ Police Cyber Crime Unit and acting manager of covert online investigations, told the Herald a New Zealand-based victim was identified as part of the investigation and their identity was permanently suppressed.
Elahi admitted the charges in separate hearings over the past six months.
The charges include multiple counts of blackmail, disclosing private sexual films and photographs to cause distress, making and distributing indecent images of children, encouraging the sexual assault of children, sexually assaulting a boy, causing or inciting children to engage in sexual activity, fraud and possessing more than 65,000 indecent images of children (IIOC) – including babies being raped.
Victims’ ages ranged from 8 months to adults.
He was first arrested in 2018 after targeting a girl in the US.
Tony Cook, NCA head of CSA operations, said the investigation team were “horrified by Elahi’s sadistic depravity and stunned by the industrial scale of his worldwide offending”.
“Elahi sought sexual gratification from having power and control of his victims and he’s displayed zero empathy for them.
“He often goaded them to the point of wanting to kill themselves.
“The effects on the victims in this case will continue throughout the rest of their lives.
“I commend the victims for their bravery and I urge anyone who is being abused online to report it. There is help available.
“Sadly there are very many offenders like Elahi who mask their real identities with convincing personas to exploit children and adults.
“I urge parents to speak with their children about who they communicate with online and what they share.
“People need to understand these offences can happen to anyone.
“Our investigation has sparked a series of other inquiries into Elahi’s associates and there is ongoing work to bring others to justice.
“We thank our international partners especially the FBI for the support given to us on this case.”
Sophie Mortimer, of the UK’s Revenge Porn Helpline, said the group has been working with the National Crime Agency to remove the online content on behalf of the victims for over 18 months.
“We have managed to remove thousands of images but there is more outstanding and this work will continue for many months to come,” Mortimer said.
“This content is some of the most extreme that the Helpline has ever dealt with.
“It is not simply nudity or sexually graphic, it is violent, degrading and deeply harmful.
“The impact of the sharing of this content is devastating and life-changing and should not be underestimated.”
Dalziel told the Herald that online exploitation was causing “ongoing harm to children” in New Zealand.
“Online child exploitation continues to be a growing, borderless criminal industry that is facilitated by technology and the internet,” Dalziel said.
“This type of offending causes serious and ongoing harm to children and our communities.
“The prevention and prosecution of this type of crime is as complex and dynamic as the technology platforms offenders use to carry out their offending and so requires a shared responsibility and a combined and innovative effort to tackle.”
He said that New Zealand has adopted a multi-agency approach to coordinate investigations.
“The three agencies have specialised groups deployed in this field – NZ Customs utilising their Child Exploitation Operations Team (CEOT), the DIA with the Digital Child Exploitation Team (DCET) and the New Zealand Police Online Child Exploitation Team across New Zealand (OCEANZ),” he said.
“The three agencies are constantly seeking to develop new ways to better protect the community from harm. Each agency has their part to play in protecting children across New Zealand and internationally.”
Elahi will be sentenced in September at the UK’s Birmingham Crown Court.
SEXUAL HARM – DO YOU NEED HELP?
If it’s an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
If you’ve ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone contact Safe to Talk confidentially:
• Call 0800 044 334
• Text 4334
• Email [email protected]
• For more info or to web chat visit www.safetotalk.nz
Alternatively contact your local police station –
Looking for support? It's available
• Call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
• Call PlunketLine 24/7 on 0800 933 922
• Depression helpline: Freephone 0800 111 757
• Healthline: 0800 611 116 (available 24 hours, 7 days a week and free to callers throughout New Zealand, including from a mobile phone)
• Lifeline: 0800 543 35
• Samaritans: 0800 726 666
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