FBI. file image
FBI. file image

FBI continue work with SAPS on case of alleged child porn mom

By Genevieve Serra Time of article published Jul 31, 2021

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Cape Town - The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have confirmed they are part of continuous investigations taking place in South Africa and that suspects are tried and prosecuted by the country's law enforcement agencies.

Nick Hersh, the media representative of the US Embassy in Pretoria, where the FBI has offices, spoke to Weekend Argus after the publication broke the news of the arrest of a 32-year-old Bonteheuwel mother who allegedly sold naked photographs of her 4-year-old daughter on the dark web.

An agent from Homeland Security pretended to be a buyer and traced her to Bonteheuwel via geotagging after she allegedly received payments through online pay platform PayPal.

The woman was arrested in March and is expected back at the Bishop Lavis Magistrate’s Court on August 19.

“The mission of the FBI overseas is to work with host nation law enforcement partners to address investigations of mutual interest. While we cannot comment on ongoing investigations, it’s important to note that the FBI does not have any law enforcement authority overseas and that suspects are taken into custody by the SAPS, “ said Hersh.

Hersh would not comment on the number of investigations under way in South Africa.

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joseph Swartbooi said the investigation was still under way with a list of charges.

The suspect has five children all under the age of 12, who have since been placed in the care of family members.

Neighbours said the suspect was known in the street for allegedly making her own pornographic home videos involving adults.

“That morning we just saw people stopping in black SUVs in front of the house,” said the neighbour, who asked not to be identified. “She was arrested the same day and never came back home. We heard afterwards it was the FBI, people from Interpol, who came to arrest her.

“But this pornography issue is not the first time she is involved. She used to make videos of herself with adults from the community, I saw one of these videos.”

The woman’s family, who declined to comment, said they were shocked.

“We were just as shocked when we saw these black SUVs stopping at the house, we never knew this was going on,” said a relative. “Our only concern now is the children and we cannot comment on this as this is very sensitive.”

The woman’s sister, who has some of the children in her care, said they were in isolation for the Covid-19 virus and would not comment.

“I have nothing to say,” she said.

The incident has also come to the attention of MEC for Social Development, Sharna Fernandez, who is taking action with ward councillor Angus McKenzie.

For nearly five months, the victim, including four of her siblings, was not given social support and counselling and deemed it as child abuse as well.

Fernandez’s spokesperson, Joshua Chigome, said: “The provincial department is aware of the case and is investigating the matter. This is child abuse and exploitation, and is a child protection issue.

“Once cases are reported, the necessary child protection processes will be implemented, and decisions will be made in the children's best interest.”

Ward 50 Bonteheuwel Councillor Angus McKenzie speaks about the recent happenings where a Bonteheuwel woman has been bust by the FBI for allegedly selling naked pictures of her 4-year-old daughter on the dark web. BRENDAN MAGAAR African News Agency (ANA)

McKenzie said they were working hard to assist the children.

“This case has been coming on for some time and our office was not informed about it. What really worried me was what level of support was given to the children. They have gone through a traumatic experience and saw the FBI at their home and are having to deal with that. I got hold of the premier and Sharna Fernandez and we discussed this issue at length.

“It’s a huge investigation which involved Homeland Security and the SAPS and we didn’t know much of what was happening. We were quickly assisted by Social Development to get teams out to the family, and we’re grateful that contact had been made.

“The children, the safety of the children and how we help these kids live a healthy and normal life in the future, is important.

“When the story broke, we heard allegations that this was ongoing. That more videos were made, that it was a normality, allegedly between herself and others, and this is still part of an investigation and once again allegations.”

The case is now also being investigated by the Film and Publications Board (FPB) which will review the material they obtained for further investigation.

Lynette Kamineth, manager of the FPB, said a thorough analysis of the material would be made.

“The FPB can confirm we have been notified of the case in question by our law enforcement partners, and will analyse the material in line with the Films and Publications Act once it is received.

“The FPB’s Child Protection Officers are internationally certified content analysts, who will analyse the material to ascertain whether people depicted in the material are children (per South African law, anyone under the age of 18).

“The Films and Publications Act makes the exposure of children to pornographic material, or their exploitation for the creation and distribution of child pornography, illegal. An analysis report of the material submitted to FPB by law enforcement is then produced.”

The FPB’s acting chief executive, Abongile Mashele, said: “We treat cases of suspected exploitation of children for the creation of child sexual abuse material with the utmost seriousness, working closely with law enforcement as we fulfil our mandated role as guardians of the safety of our children in South Africa.

“Our child protection officers serve as expert witnesses as required, should the case go to court, and this has improved the success rate of prosecutions in the past.”

Weekend Argus

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