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Ex-church councillor among four charged in violent child sex abuse ring

Police said that a central aspect of the suspects' modus operandi involved inflicting harm and violence on children.

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Image: AOP

Authorities in Ostrobothnia, western Finland have charged four persons suspected of involvement in a large-scale cross-border child sex abuse case that involved violence and the rape of minors.

The suspected crimes were committed between 2007 and 2014 while other offences relating to pornographic images involving children dated from 2007 to 2017. Investigators had originally zeroed in on six suspects during their probe, but charges were eventually laid against four of the men.

The main suspect in the case has been charged with possession and aggravated dissemination of indecent images of children, aggravated child sex abuse, child sex abuse and aggravated rape.

Another suspect has been charged with aggravated child sex abuse and aggravated rape as well as possession of and aggravated dissemination of indecent images of children.

A third was charged with aggravated child sexual abuse.

Authorities charged a fourth suspect with charges of possession of indecent images of children as well as other offences.

One of the defendants is likely to be fined for the charges levied, while officials have decided not to prosecute another. The defendants have largely denied the charges against them or have not commented on them.

Police: Harm and violence against children weighed

In March, police described the central feature of the investigation as involving "child harm and violence against children."

"In its mildest form the abuse that occurred in Finland involved showing adult pornography to children. In the worst cases, children were drugged and raped for 10 hours," lead investigator Sanna Springare said at the time.

District prosecutor Jaana Nyrhinen did not divulge additional details about the charges laid. While she admitted that some children had been drugged, she declined to identify the narcotics used.

The National Bureau of Investigation NBI said that the international investigation has been expansive.

"There are more than 400 hours of abuse material. The majority of these acts target foreign individuals whose identities could not be determined," Nyrhinen noted.

However investigators said that they have been able to identify victims in Finland. Police reported earlier that their ages ranged from six to 15 years old.

Prosecutor requests secrecy

The prosecutor has a requested closed-door hearings as well as officially sealing the court documents as well as the verdicts. He said that the trial would likely begin next year.

Police first revealed that they were investigating the large-scale case back in March. Some of the suspects under police scrutiny were suspected of disseminating child pornography, some of which involved physical abuse and rape of child victims.

According to information obtained by Yle, the main suspect has worked as a church councillor and entrepreneur and reportedly had an unblemished reputation before the suspected crimes were publicised.

The preliminary investigation revealed six victims, ranging in age from pre-schoolers to upper comprehensive school children.

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