November 28, 2019 / 9:57 AM / 8 days ago

Australia makes rare arrest in international 'sextortion' case

KUALA LUMPUR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Australia has charged a foreign national on suspicion of “sextortion”, police said on Thursday, in a rare move to tackle a crime seen as a growing problem in the country.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said a man living in the South Australian capital of Adelaide was arrested for threatening to share intimate photos and videos of his ex-partner after their relationship ended.

The AFP said the arrest was one of its first sextortion cases and it was made after receiving reports from law enforcement officials overseas, as the victim lives outside Australia. There have been other cases probed by state police.

Local media reported that the man was Nepalese but police declined to comment.

“Online threats of this nature can be devastating for victims,” AFP’s South Australia Crime Operations Superintendent Gail McClure said in a statement, adding fear and manipulation have often deterred victims from reporting.

“Make no mistake, this behavior is a crime and police will investigate any complaints about this type of online conduct,” she added.

The 25-year-old man faces up to five years in jail, if convicted in court, said police, who also seized his electronic devices.

From Britain to Germany and South Korea, sextortion cases have become increasingly common in recent years, with the advancement and easy access of technology enabling perpetrators to blackmail and sexually assault women.

Examples of such cases include non-consensual sharing of intimate photos - commonly known as ‘sextortion’ or ‘revenge porn’, or upskirting - the surreptitious filming or taking of photographs under girls’ and women’s clothes.

Australia last year joined countries like Britain, Japan and Singapore to outlaw ‘revenge porn’ under new legislations.

“This is a growing problem,” said Julie Inman Grant, the Australian government-appointed eSafety Commissioner whose office has helped more than 1,700 victims to remove their intimate images from the internet since 2017.

Most revenge porn victims are women and girls, often targeted by current and former partners to distress, extort or humiliate them.

Strangers also hack into people’s devices and social media accounts to steal private images to post online.

Writing by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi; Editing by Michael Taylor. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org

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