News

Sexual exploitation of 15-year old: Offending website had been under surveillance

  • Eight more similar websites identified 

  • Foreign web domains prove a challenge 

By Pamodi Waravita 

Despite the main website which was used in the recent sexual exploitation of a 15-year-old girl child having been under surveillance for some time by the relevant law enforcement authorities, the arrest of the admin of the website had only occurred on a tipoff about an ad concerning the girl in question. 

Sources privy to the investigation into the same matter told The Morning that the website – www.lanka.ads.com – had been under surveillance for a certain period of time, on suspicion that it could pose a threat as a platform for the exploitation of children. However, the law enforcement authorities had not acted on the matter at the time as there was no proper victim being identified, the lack of a criminal complaint, and the fear of appearing to be suppressing media freedom. 

A tipoff to the Mount Lavinia Police has resulted in the arrest of a man by the Mount Lavinia Police, followed by a string of arrests of several others, including high powered individuals for the sexual exploitation of the 15-year-old child for a period of three months, using the said online platform, among others. 

The previous findings resulting from the surveillance of the website had however, according to the sources who spoke to The Morning, helped in the speedy arrest of the said suspect. 

Following the recent findings, eight more similar websites have also been identified on suspicion of involvement in similar activity.  

Sources also cited a gap in the monitoring mechanisms pertaining to the cyber space for the efficient prevention of such crimes, adding that in previous similar incidents, discussions had pointed out that the fact that most such websites are registered under a foreign domain proved difficult for the finding of the administrators and the owners of these websites. 

The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) raised similar concerns yesterday (7) about the monitoring and investigating of cyber crimes related to children, citing a lack of specialised knowledge on the part of the officers assigned related tasks and the lack of availability of sophisticated technological infrastructure including the relevant facilities and tools such as modern software. 

Attempts to contact the Police Media Spokesman, Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police (SDIG) Ajith Rohana, proved futile. 

A spate of arrests followed the arrest of a man by the Mount Lavinia Police on 7 June over suspicion of having sold a 15-year-old girl via a website – www.lanka.ads.com. The man was also charged with sexually assaulting the girl over the Internet and was remanded after being produced before the Moratuwa Magistrate’s Court. The Police said that the girl had been sold to various people for Rs. 10,000, Rs. 15,000, and Rs. 30,000 each for about three months. A total of 34 suspects have been arrested over the sale of the 15-year-old girl including the former Maldivian State Minister for Finance and Treasury Mohamed Ashmalee, a specialist cardiologist attached to the Navy, the victim’s mother, another woman, the person who prepared the advertisement, a three-wheeler driver, a car driver, a hotel manager, and 17 suspects who purchased the girl online including the Mihintale Pradeshiya Sabha Deputy Chairman, a leading gem businessman, a monk, a ship captain, and crew members, among others.