CHILD PORN KING NAILED SEARCH FOR MISS­ING TOD­DLER

End of road for one of SA’S most pro­lific sleaze dis­trib­u­tors

Saturday Star - - FRONT PAGE - SHAIN GERMANER

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

PIC­TURES: FACE­BOOK

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.

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