CHILD PORN KING NAILED SEARCH FOR MISSING TODDLER
End of road for one of SA’S most prolific sleaze distributors
AFTER eight years of investigation and court proceedings, one of South Africa’s most prolific child pornography distributors, Robert de Vries, has been convicted on 107 criminal charges. And after an attempt to extend his bail yesterday, pending sentencing, police discovered more child porn on his PC and hard drives.
It was in 2010 that De Vries’s Greymont, Joburg, home was first raided after US government agents working at the US Postal Service tipped off local police about his mailing scheme.
De Vries used coded online ads to tip off paedophiles worldwide to his business, where he sold up to 296 000 illegal images, videos and stories on DVDS to clients via post or hyperlink.
The State said he had started his porn distribution as early as 1998, but that his delivery methods had become more sophisticated up until his arrest in 2010. That year, US agents, using false names, managed to order their own copies of De Vries’s child porn DVDS.
When his home was raided, police discovered several hard drives containing identical files to those delivered to the US, and the password used to unlock the encrypted files was also the same.
Throughout his trial at the High Court in Joburg, De Vries tried to pin the blame on about half-a-dozen rotating room-mates staying at his home between 2004 and 2010.
He argued they had continued to pass on the business to the next tenant or visitor, and he was unaware of the criminal activities going on in his own home.
He admitted to picking up three “lots of money” but without knowing what they were for. However, none of these room-mates were found or testified at his trial.
During a damning judgment on Thursday, Judge Colin Lamont said he did not believe De Vries’s claims of a conspiracy against him.
He said the 57-year-old had clearly been the distributor of the porn that had made its way to countries across the world.
The judge said the State had clearly proved De Vries’s possession and distribution of the child porn, that he had collected money for it and had accepted deposits in his bank accounts.
Judge Lamont convicted De Vries on 107 criminal charges, including counts of possession, distribution and creation of child pornography.
After the court proceedings, De Vries told the Saturday Star to not “publish fake news or untruths” and continued to claim he was innocent.
He said the court had failed to recognise he had only been an unwitting mule for the real perpetrators.
De Vries said the hard drives were not his, that it would have been easy to swop them on his computers, and that none of the devices were linked directly to him.
He still blamed two of his former room-mates for the majority of the crimes, claiming they both had extensive criminal records.
On Thursday, the court gave De Vries a bail extension for a day to allow his advocate to continue with a full bail application pending the sentencing.
However, the court insisted that extreme conditions be placed on him, with Judge Lamont ordering that police investigators be allowed to search De Vries’s home and electronic devices. At yesterday’s proceedings, De Vries tried to argue he required bail as he was the primary caregiver of his 12-year-old son.
While it appeared the court was considering granting him bail, State advocate Maro Papachristoforou revealed that De Vries was still indulging in downloading child porn.
She summoned US Department of Homeland Security senior criminal investigator Johan Claassen to the stand.
Claassen had accompanied the investigating officer, Karel Geldenhuys, to De Vries’s home on Thursday afternoon, where he was tasked with analysing nine hard drives, a laptop and desktop computer.
However, within just a few hours of preliminary investigation, Claassen discovered a further 12 child porn images on one of the drives and the desktop computer.
Furthermore, he told the court that De Vries had specifically asked to keep the offending hard drive at his home to use for business purposes.
The images were submitted to the court and Judge Lamont determined that the subjects of the pornographic pictures definitely appeared to be under the age of 18, with Claassen positing one of them was probably around the age of 13.
Through his advocate, Norman Makhubela, De Vries tried to argue that the images had been part of a porn torrent he had downloaded and that they were adults.
But Judge Lamont was unwilling to entertain such an argument.
He said the images had been analysed and had been downloaded recently, and it was possible De Vries was still running his child porn business.
The judge said the charges of which De Vries had been convicted were of an evil type.
“It is wicked for a person to ruin the lives of others in pursuit of money. “This is the devious nature of the accused,” said Judge Lamont, before refusing to extend De Vries’s bail.
It’s wicked to ruin lives of others in pursuit of money
Police are investigating a case of kidnapping after a 13-month-old toddler went missing in Brackendowns, Alberton, on the East Rand earlier this week. On the left is a picture of Eden when he was born.