PETALING JAYA: A paedophile who has been operating under the radar for 14 years has been arrested in Lundu, a small town in Sarawak, after joint efforts between Malaysian and Australian police.
The suspect, Alladin Lanim, had been under investigation by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Queensland Police and the Australian Transactions Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac) for two years.
According to a report by The Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday (Sept 5), four children aged nine to 14 have been rescued following his arrest.
The Sydney-based newspaper also shared a chronology of the investigation, starting with a multi-national internal police report in 2019 which had listed Alladin's online alias as one of the top 10 offenders in the world for online child exploitation.
The 40-year old man posted his heinous activities on the dark web, with detailed abuses inflicted on children aged between two and 16.
Authorities said that he has been active since 2007 and was linked to more than 1,000 images and videos of sexually-abused minors.
"He was so prolific with so many victims, that is why he became a high priority," Detective Sergeant Daniel Burnicle, the AFP's acting senior officer in Kuala Lumpur was quoted as saying to The Sydney Morning Herald.
Authorities could find no traces to the suspect save for his anonymous online profile.
Experts at the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation's identification unit made a breakthrough when they finally identified the suspect in August 2020.
The AFP-led operation, which included members of Queensland Police's Argus taskforce for child victim identification, came across a possible image of the suspect on social media.
The pictures were then submitted to the Malaysian police and KL-based AFP officers and the US Homeland Security investigators who were racing to identify him.
"It's just a slow, methodical burn.
"They were going through images trying to work out where that location may be so they can follow up. It is all very difficult with the dark web to track people," Burnicle said.
In another development of the case, a team at Austrac was able to put together another key piece in the puzzle this year by coming across the same image as the one that had been forwarded to Malaysia from Australia months earlier.
This time the image came with identifying information attached.
In July, with the assistance of the Australian investigators, Malaysian authorities managed to track Alladin to a Covid-19 quarantine centre in Sarawak where he was in mandatory isolation after coming back from Peninsular Malaysia.
Malaysian police were waiting for him upon his discharge on July 5 and took him into custody.
Alladin was charged with 18 counts of molesting five boys and inducing them to watch pornographic videos by offering to let them play a mobile game on his phone.
He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a total of 18 years, six months' jail and 15 strokes of the rotan. He pleaded guilty to four charges on Aug 16 and 14 charges on Aug 17 at three Sessions Courts in Kuching, reported Dayak Daily.
The offences were committed at a plantation quarters and a home porch in Lundu between 2018 and April this year.
"This (investigation) was all, of course, done during Covid-19 (period and MCO), which made it all more difficult to get around the country and conduct basic field inquiries.
"We hope this case will be like a learning experience that we use over here and say 'this is what's happened, how can we do it better for next time?' You need a police force to be able to counter this type of offending," Burnicle added.
Sarawak state Welfare, Community Well-being, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah told The Star that she was alerted about the case.
"Thankfully he was finally tracked down, prosecuted and punished for the hideous crimes he committed.
"Congratulations to the Malaysian police and the Australian Federal Police for the excellent work," she said.
Bukit Aman Sexual, Women and Child Investigations Division (D11) Assistant Direct Asst Comm Siti Kamsiah Hassan said that the arrest was the result of a close working relationship between local and Australian police.
"With his arrest we hope that it can prevent further potential cases from happening," she told The Borneo Post.