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Hacking Group Anonymous Targets Global Pedophiles

Hacking group Anonymous to target pedophiles using the ‘dark web’ to carry out child abuse
  • Hacking group Anonymous are targeting international pedophile rings
  • ‘Operation Death Eaters’ is campaign aiming to expose ‘pedosadists’
  • Global project is building a grassroots database of international cases
  • Hopes to ultimately expose an ‘international cult’ of child sex abuse  
  • Calling on followers to research cases of high level corruption 
  • Also demands ‘end to human trafficking and abuse complicity worldwide’

By KEILIGH BAKER FOR MAILONLINE

Anonymous protesters with covered faces march from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square and then around the streets of London to protest austerity, mass surveillance and attacks on human rights on November 5, 2014.

Anonymous protesters with covered faces march from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square and then around the streets of London to protest austerity, mass surveillance and attacks on human rights on November 5, 2014.

In the wake of the Westminster child abuse scandal and allegations of establishment cover-ups, hackers Anonymous have decided to expose international pedophile networks.

The hacking group says it is is planning on collecting evidence against international pedophile rings and their abuse of children to find the links between different operations and ultimately bring the perpetrators to justice.

Named ‘Operation Death Eaters’ after Voldemort’s band of evil followers in the Harry Potter series, the group is calling for a global effort in exposing the pedophile rings through the power of social media.

A still from the Operation Death Eaters video by  Anonymous - the hacking group says it is is planning on collecting evidence against international paedophile rings to ultimately bring the perpetrators to justice

A still from the Operation Death Eaters video by Anonymous – the hacking group says it is is planning on collecting evidence against international pedophile rings to ultimately bring the perpetrators to justice

This newest Anonymous campaign comes just weeks after the group declared war on jihadists in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.

Now, they are building a grassroots database of pedophile cases from across the world in order to ultimately expose an ‘international cult’ of child sex abuse.

A Tumblr set up to promote the campaign states: ‘The objective of opdeatheaters is an independent, international, victim-led tribunal/ inquiry into trafficking and paedosadist industry.

‘What is our first step? We need meticulously researched and clearly documented examples of high level complicity in the industry, obstruction of justice and cover ups to show the need for independent inquiries.’

The UK version of the site states: ‘The CSA inquiry in the UK is an attempt to depict a powerful cult as a string of isolated incidents of “sex abuse”.

‘The complicit UK media is running a huge propaganda campaign to conflate torture and murder with “pedophilia” and call for understanding of “pedophilia”.

‘This is not a group of sad pedophiles who need help and understanding. This is a torture and death cult with a powerful global human trafficking network.

‘We demand that torture and murder be called torture and murder, not sex. This is an international cult and needs to be investigated as one, not simply as an endless series of isolated incidents confined to the UK.

‘We call upon our comrades globally to help us investigate and demand an end to to the trafficking networks with arrests at the top not just the bottom.

‘We demand an end to human trafficking and abuse complicity worldwide.’

The Independent refers to an Anonymous statement which claims: ‘The Westminster pedophile ring is one of many cases where Operation DeathEaters has actively pursued and sought truth, in order to end the hideous crimes concealed behind the British elite.

‘In fear of these investigations being bungled over time, the operation’s objectives are clear and simple: source public information before it disappears, push for independent inquiry, and offer support to witnesses and the victims where needed.’

Anonymous also cites a number of high profile cases and investigations in the UK including Jimmy Savile, MP Cyril Smith,the claims regarding Elm Guest House and the now-defunct Paedophile International Exchange

Tens of millions of images of child abuse are believed to be circulating online on the ‘dark web’, many showing such graphic abuse that the media is turning a blind eye to the problem, experts warned this week.

Figures from the European Commission’s Global Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Online suggest 50,000 new child abuse images are uploaded each year – of which more than 70 per cent are images of children under the age of 10.

On January 10 Anonymous activists released a video condemning the gun attack at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo which left 12 people dead.

The hacking group says it wants to collect evidence against international paedophile rings and look into their abuse of children to find the links between different operations and bring the perpetrators to justice

The hacking group says it wants to collect evidence against international paedophile rings and look into their abuse of children to find the links between different operations and bring the perpetrators to justice

In the clip, which was uploaded to the group’s Belgian YouTube account, a figure wearing the group’s Guy Fawkes mask and a hood says in French in an electronically-distorted voice: ‘We are declaring war against you, the terrorists.’

Sitting at a desk and reading from a piece of paper, the figure says the group will track down and close all accounts on social networks related to terrorists to avenge those killed.

Anonymous has previously carried out cyber attacks on websites belonging to the Government, as well as those of corporate and religious organisations.

In 2012 Anonymous crippled the Home Office’s website by flooding it with huge amounts of internet traffic.

Named 'Operation Death Eaters' after Voldemort's band of evil followers in the Harry Potter series, the group is calling for a global effort in exposing the paedophile rings through the power of social media

ANONYMOUS – THE DIGITAL ROBIN HOOD OR JUST CYBER TERRORISTS?

Hacker group Anonymous has been linked to online attacks around the world aimed at punishing governments for policies of which the hackers disapprove.

Members are known as ‘Anons’ and are distinguished by their Guy Fawkes masks.

The group are seen as anything from digital Robin Hoods to cyber terrorists for their hacking campaigns against government agencies, child pornography sites and the Klu Klux Klan.

In 2008 the online community staged a series of protests, pranks, and hacks Church of Scientology as part if its ‘Project Chanology.’

Later targets of Anonymous ‘hacktivism’ included government agencies of the US, Israel, Tunisia, Uganda, and others, copyright protection agencies; the Westboro Baptist Church; and corporations such as PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, and Sony.

In 2013 they declared war on secretive ‘chat sites’ used by pedophiles to trade images.

Last November they hacked into the Twitter account of the Ku Klux Klan after the white supremacist group distributed flyers threatening ‘lethal force’ protesters in Ferguson.

Dozens of people have been arrested for involvement in Anonymous cyberattacks, in countries including the US, UK, Australia, the Netherlands, Spain, and Turkey.

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Anger at Calls to Lower Age of Consent to 15 in UK

A CALL from Britain’s leading public health expert to allow teenagers to have sex legally at 15 sparked a furious backlash

A leading health expert has recommended lowering the age of consent to 15

A leading health expert has recommended lowering the age of consent to 15

By: Daniel Macadam

Politicians, lawyers and parents warned that lowering the age of consent from 16 would ­further ruin the innocence of childhood and send a “dangerous message” to paedophiles.

Professor John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, argued changing the law would “draw a line in the sand” against sex at 14 or younger.

Prof Ashton said the new age limit would help teens to get ­sexual health advice on the NHS and help realign who should be exposed to sexual messages.

But parents warned that the proposal would send the wrong message in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal and other paedophile attacks.

Siobhan Freegard, of parenting website Netmums, said: “There are very few prosecutions for adults caught having sex with 14 and 15-year-olds, so if the age of consent drops further, it could send a dangerous message.

uk, britain, consent, age, sex, children, teens, teenagers, 15, 16, john ashton, jimmy savile, paedophile,

Professor John Ashton believes that a lower age limit would help teens get sexual health advice [PA]

“At 15, many children simply aren’t ready for sex mentally or physically. We should be protecting what little time they have of their childhood not slashing it.”

Prime Minister David Cameron was quick to reject Prof Ashton’s suggestion. Downing Street said: “The current age is in place to protect children and there are no plans to change it.”

A lawyer for 72 of Savile’s ­victims said she had “real concerns” about lowering the age of consent. Liz Dux, who heads a specialist child abuse team at law firm Slater & Gordon, said: “Predatory adults would be given legitimacy to focus their attentions on even younger teenagers.

“There is a real risk that society would be sending out the message that sex between 14 to 15-year-olds is also acceptable.”

Official figures estimate that as many as one in three teenagers has sex before their 16th birthday. Britain also has the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe with 29 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19.

uk, britain, consent, age, sex, children, teens, teenagers, 15, 16, john ashton, jimmy savile, paedophile,

David Cameron was quick to reject the suggestions [GETTY]

Deputy Prime Minster Nick Clegg said: “We have far too high levels of teenage pregnancy. I’m worried about the sexualisation of the culture and the information so many young people are bombarded with. But do I think a blanket reduction in the age of consent is the answer? No.”

Legalising consensual sex at 15 would bring Britain in line with France, Greece, Sweden and Poland. In Germany, Italy and Portugal, the legal age is 14. Spain allows sex as young as 13, though that is being raised to 16.

Experts claim changing Britain’s age of consent would help teenagers get more advice about sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies.

TV doctor Christian Jessen, Embarrassing Bodies host, said that sex being illegal under the age of 16 made it more difficult for young people to ask for help.

He explained: “Kids are having sex at that age and younger but won’t go to the GP for advice or contraception as it’s illegal.”

Prof Ashton said: “Youngsters get the most incredible messages from pornography, from social media. This needs to be corrected by having open discussions in a sensible environment.”

 

 

David Scott Engle First American Identified as Pedophile in Project Spade Bust

EXCLUSIVE: Youth baseball coach is first American out of 76 identified as pedophile trapped in global sting that rescued 400 children

  • David Scott Engle, from Lake Lucerne, Washington, is believed to be the first US child sex offender officially identified as someone caught by investigators from Project Spade
  • Last month MailOnline reported Engle, a divorce lawyer, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after amassing thousands of child pornography images
  • He will now stand trial on child rape charges after investigators found dozens of videos of him allegedly sexually assaulting on two boys
  • So far Project Spade has led to the rescue of 386 young children worldwide and the arrest of 348 people, among them nearly 80 American nationals
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Child rape: Baseball coach David Engle, pictured, ‘repeatedly filmed himself raping two boys and had 450 sexual photos of his youth baseball players’

By WILL PAYNE

A youth baseball coach was exposed as a prolific pedophile in one of the world’s biggest ever child porn busts, it can be revealed today.

David Scott Engle is believed to be the first American child sex offender officially identified as someone caught by investigators from Project Spade.

Last month MailOnline reported Engle, a divorce lawyer from Lake Lucerne in Washington, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after amassing thousands of child pornography images.

The 50-year-old will now stand trial on child rape charges after investigators found dozens of videos of him allegedly carrying out sickening sexual assaults on two boys.

He was arrested in November last year when he was detected buying child pornography online, leading to the discovery that he had a collection of 450 images showing the clothed genitals of the boys he coached.

And MailOnline can for the first time reveal that he was caught after operatives from sweeping child pornography investigation Project Spade discovered his internet activity.

Members of the global team alerted local law enforcement who searched his home and a storage unit and discovered a stash of horrific home-made and purchased child pornography.

Last night Emily Langlie from the United States Attorney’s office told MailOnline: ‘Project Spade put him on the radar of law enforcement officers.

‘Then following the serving of warrants it became clear that Mr Engle was involved in not only the production of child pornography, but in child molestation against young victims.’

So far Project Spade has led to the rescue of 386 young children around the world and the arrest of 348 people, among them nearly 80 American nationals.

‘It is alleged that officers seized hundreds of thousands of videos detailing horrific sexual acts against very young children, some of the worst that they have ever viewed,’ Toronto Inspector Joanna Beaven-Desjardins said.

Massive haul: Canadian police described the Project Spade operation as one of the largest child porn busts they've ever seen

Massive haul: Canadian police described the Project Spade operation as one of the largest child porn busts they’ve ever seen

Police have revealed 108 people were arrested in Canada, 76 in the U.S and 164 in countries from Spain to South Africa and Australia. Forty school teachers, nine doctors and nurses, and more than 30 people who volunteered with kids were among those taken into custody.

The list of suspects also includes nine clergymen, six police officers and three foster parents. Police said the children were ‘rescued from child exploitation’ but did not give more details.

Beaven-Desjardins said the investigation began with a Toronto man accused of running a company since 2005 that distributed child pornography videos to the tune of $4million in revenue, CTV News reported.

Police allege Brian Way, 42, instructed people around the world to create the videos of children ranging from 5 to 12 years of age, then distributed the videos via his company, Azov Films, to international customers.

The videos included naked boys from Germany, Romania and Ukraine, which it marketed as naturist movies and claimed were legal in Canada and the United States.

The head of the Toronto police sex crimes unit told the Toronto Star that the X-rated images displayed ‘horrific acts of sexual abuse — some of the worst (officers) have seen.’

Police said they executed a search warrant at Way’s company and home, seizing about 1,000 pieces of evidence: computers, servers, DVD burners, a video editing suite and hundreds of movies.

Teachers, Doctors Among Those Busted

Global collaboration: More than 30 police officers from around the world gathered to announce the end of a 3-year child pornography investigation in Toronto

Global collaboration: More than 30 police officers from around the world gathered to announce the end of a 3-year child pornography investigation in Toronto

Way was charged with 24 offences, including child pornography. Police also designated Azov Films as a criminal organization, charging Way with giving directions on behalf of a gang. TheAzovfilms.com website has been shut down.

And MailOnline can reveal Engle was part of the global network of paedophiles. Last month he was sentenced on federal child pornography charges but allegations that he raped one boy ‘countless’ times over six years remaining outstanding in state court.

The baseball coach for 11 and 12-year-olds had gone to great lengths to have contact with children, and amassed an extensive collection of child pornography featuring boys the same age as the ones he taught, the court was told.

Before his arrest, Engle had coached a youth baseball team, was president of Maple Valley Pony Baseball and Fast Pitch, served on two regional baseball organizations and one baseball business.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marci Ellsworth said the former coach abused the trust parents placed in him.

‘While [Engle] was purportedly serving as a role model and mentor for these young boys, he was sexually interested in them,’ Ms Ellsworth said in court papers.

‘When [he] was taking pictures and shooting video of baseball games, his camera was focused on the players’ crotches, not on their batting stance, pitching arms, or any other aspect of their athletic performance.’

Online filth: Police allege Brian Way, 42, instructed people around the world to create the videos of children ranging from 5 to 12 years of age, then distributed the videos via his company, Azov Films

Online filth: Police allege Brian Way, 42, instructed people around the world to create the videos of children ranging from 5 to 12 years of age, then distributed the videos via his company, Azov Films

Engle pleaded guilty in July to federal child pornography charges and admitted possessing hundreds of videos of children being sexually abused.

Now he has been sentenced on those charges, the child rape case can proceed with any state sentence following on from the 25-year term just handed to Engle.

King County prosecutors have charged him with three counts of child rape over allegations that he was shown raping a boy in several videos.

About 1,400 photos and 40 videos allegedly show Engle raping one boy, and three videos show abuse of a second child.

In one Engle filmed himself watching baseball on TV as the boy he was raping struggled and told him ‘No’. The assaults only stopped after his arrest.

‘This is a heart-wrenching betrayal of trust of the victims and the community,’ U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan said in a statement.

Engle was caught after postal inspectors joined an international investigation into Azovfilms.com.

All walks of life: Police said 108 people were arrested in Canada, 76 in the U.S and 164 in countries from Spain to South Africa and Australia, among them teachers, doctors and priests

All walks of life: Police said 108 people were arrested in Canada, 76 in the U.S and 164 in countries from Spain to South Africa and Australia, among them teachers, doctors and priests

He spent $2,300 on videos and photos sent to him by the company between 2005 and 2011, according to Q13Fox, but when police raided his home they found child pornography well beyond the purchases he made from the website they had been investigating.

His ‘collection of child pornography consisted predominantly of young boys in the same age range as those [he] coached in youth baseball,’ Ms Ellsworth told the court.

She added: ‘[Engle] had many pictured of the boys he coached – including nearly 450 pictures of their clothed genital regions – which, although … not pornographic in nature, are nonetheless disturbing.’

His conviction is a significant result for Project Spade, which began in 2010 and worked with Interpol in more than 50 countries including Australia, Spain, Mexico, Norway and Greece.

More than 350,000 images and over 9,000 videos – about 45 terabytes – of child sexual abuse were found during the probe, and arrests are continuing.

Norwegian police spokesman Bjoern-Erik Ludvigsen said in a statement: ‘This operation shows that international police cooperation works. Despite large amounts of material and that this is time-consuming work, this shows that the Internet is not a safe haven for crimes against children,’

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service said it began its investigation by accessing the company website and making undercover purchases.

Hundreds Arrested in International Child Porn Case

348 people arrested and 386 children rescued

Toronto police announcing an international child pornography bust said Thursday that 348 people have been arrested and 386 children rescued from situations around the world where they were at risk.

Toronto police announcing an international child pornography bust said Thursday that 348 people have been arrested and 386 children rescued from situations around the world where they were at risk.

Police say a sweeping child pornography investigation that began with a Toronto man has led to at least 386 victims being rescued.

Toronto police say 348 people have been arrested around the world as part of Project Spade, which they described as one of the largest child porn busts they’ve ever achieved.

Hundreds of thousand of the images, filling 45 terabytes or a stack of paper reaching as tall as 1,500 CN Towers,  found featured “horrific acts of sexual abuse — some of the worst (officers) have seen,” said Inspector Joanna Beaven-Desjardins, who heads the Toronto police’s sex crimes unit.

They say 50 of those arrested are from Ontario and 58 are from other parts of Canada.

Police say school teachers, doctors and actors were among those arrested.

The Toronto man at the heart of the investigation was allegedly running a company since 2005 that distributed child pornography videos.

Police allege the man instructed people around the world to create the videos of children ranging from five to 12 years of age, and then distributed the videos to international customers.

“We’ve worked a lot of big cases. This is by far the biggest,” said one source.

‪The company, Toronto-based Azov Films, sold mail-order DVDs and streamed online videos of naked boys from Germany, Romania and Ukraine, which it marketed as naturist movies and claimed were legal in Canada and the United States.

‪According to police in Spain, where 38 suspects were arrested last year, the Canadian firm earned $1.6-million annually from sales in 94 countries.

‪The head of the company, 41-year-old Toronto resident Brian Way, has been in custody since his May, 2011, arrest after an online undercover operation.

‪Records at the Finch Avenue courthouse in Toronto show that, in addition to indicting him with 23 child-pornography-related criminal counts, prosecutors took the unprecedented step of designating Azov Films as a criminal organization and charging Mr. Way with giving directions on behalf of a gang.

Originally enacted to fight criminal bikers, gangsterism offences bring stiffer penalties because they have to be served consecutively to other jail terms.

Inspector Joanna Beavan-Desjardins at news conference (14 Nov 2013)

Inspector Joanna Beavan-Desjardins said 108 arrests were made across Canada

‪Mr. Way’s mother, Sandra Waslov, who is believed to be in the U.S., was named as a co-conspirator, along with a German videographer, Markus Rudolph Roth.

‪About 100 people have been arrested in Canada, including 45 in Ontario and 45 in Quebec, police sources said.

‪According to U.S. court documents, the Azov investigation was prompted by about 20 complaints to Toronto police.

‪Some of the complaints came from other law-enforcement agencies, some from cyber-tipsters and even some from business rivals of Mr. Way, sources said.

‪Azov was not exactly a covert operation: It was incorporated, held trademarks and fought for them in very public legal battles that stretched over years.

‪Starting in 2004, David Eisenlohr, a California mail-order distributor selling what he calls European naturist videos, complained to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that Mr. Way was stealing his films and reselling them online at a cheaper price.

‪Mr. Eisenlohr then came to the attention of U.S. investigators in March, 2006, when photo-lab employees at a Wal-Mart in Virginia saw a man, David Tetterton, trying to print explicit photos from their self-serve kiosk. Evidence seized from Mr. Tetterton’s house led to Mr. Eisenlohr, who was indicted with trading child pornography.

‪Even as he faced criminal charges, Mr. Eisenlohr continued his campaign against his Canadian competitor. In 2007, he wrote a letter to then Canadian justice minister Rob Nicholson to complain about Mr. Way “stealing my intellectual property using the internet” and ask whether there were laws in Canada to stop him.

‪“It’s crazy, guys arguing over what we consider child-exploitation material,” one police detective said about the feud.

‪In court, Mr. Eisenlohr successfully argued that his nude videos were not pornographic and he was acquitted in 2009.

‪The following year in Romania, a German man arrived in the Transylvanian city of Zalau and began offering martial-arts classes to local boys.

‪The man was Mr. Roth and he was arrested in August, 2010, and sentenced to three years of prison for taking more than 100 pornographic films of children. Authorities said the films were sold to Canada at $1,000 a piece.

Two months after Mr. Roth’s arrest, Toronto police and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service began their Azov investigation, accessing the company website and making undercover purchases.

Toronto police infographic on Project Spade

Toronto police say over 50 countries were involved in the inquiry

‪They found that orders to the U.S. transited through a warehouse near Buffalo before being shipped by USPS Priority mail.

‪Toronto police executed a search warrant at Azov’s Etobicoke offices on May 1, 2011, and seized hundreds of DVDs, computers, business records, shipping labels and customer order histories, according to U.S. court documents.

‪Police sources estimate about 100 children were rescued as a result of the investigation.

‪Sources say the investigation identified 10 to 15 children in Ukraine and Eastern Europe, who modelled for photographers connected with Azov.

‪In addition, the sources said, as Azov clients were identified around the world, police uncovered more children who were victims of those customers, who were either “hands-on abusers” or who secretly videotaped them.

‪In one case, the Azov probe led to the arrest of Richard Keller, a pediatric endocrinologist in Andover, Mass.

‪A search at Dr. Keller’s house uncovered videos that appeared to have been shot at the Cap d’Agde nudist colony in southern France. The camera operator’s forearm and wristwatch are seen at one point. Investigators then executed a second search warrant to see whether they could find a matching wristwatch.

‪Several of the American defendants contend the videos they bought aren’t pornographic at all, but just legal videos of naked boys, using the same argument that led to Mr. Eisenlohr’s acquittal. U.S. courts so far have sided with the prosecution and a number of defendants have already been found guilty.

‪In Canada, the Criminal Code’s definition of child pornography includes images where a minor’s genitals are depicted for a sexual purpose.

‪Canadian police say they’ve obtained legal opinions from prosecutors that the material sold by Azov qualified as child pornography.

“What did they think they were buying?” one officer said about customers who argued they bought legal naturist films.

Bangladesh’s tanneries make sweatshops look good

Processing animal skins in Dhaka poisons workers, pollutes Dhaka’s river yet avoids the international spotlight

Human Rights Watch interviewed 10 children, some as young as 11, working in tanneries. Many children work 12 or even 14 hours a day, considerably more than the five-hour limit for adolescents in factory work established by Bangladeshi law. Dhaka, June 2012.

By: 

DHAKA, BANGLADESH—Zakir Hussain loves cricket, the way that only a child can truly love a sport. He loves it more than the glamorous Bollywood movies that transport him to a magical world so much better than his own, more than his mother’s masala shrimp that he and his siblings fight over. He loves it even more than missing school — which he used to do, often skipping because he wanted to play cricket.

He might always love it. He’ll probably never play it again. He is 15 years old and coughs as he speaks.

“I can’t run as fast between wickets as I used to. I get tired quickly now . . . and my eyes burn sometimes.”

Hussain works at a leather tannery in Dhaka for 12 hours a day, seven days a week. In the five months he has been working, he has lost about 12 pounds and much of his stamina. He also lives in the tannery.

Should he stay in the job, he is expected to live only another 35 years.

Hussain is about five-seven and gaunt but has a big smile and thick, tousled hair. He is squatting barefoot on the floor of Tippera Tannery, one of the hundreds of tanneries in this Dhaka neighbourhood where raw animal skins are processed using a cocktail of toxic chemicals.

There are about 200 leather tanneries in the Hazaribagh district of Dhaka in Bangladesh. The tannery industries of Hazaribagh are situated in the densely populated residential areas of the district.

He is deftly nailing small leftover pieces of leather to the floor to straighten them. A few metres away, hundreds of raw hides stew in a deep, long pit as chemicals such as chromium and sodium are poured over. Remnants of the chemicals spill onto the floor before draining into open gutters and then into the nearby Buriganga River.

These chemicals are slowly killing Hussain, and the thousands of others who work here.

Slow-moving catastrophe

One thousand, one hundred and twenty-nine people died when Rana Plaza in Savar, an industrial suburb of Dhaka, collapsed on April 24, 2013. Twice that number were maimed or injured. Some will never walk, let alone work. Most of the dead and injured were women, many of whom earned the minimum wage of about $39 a month.

 In the days since the Rana Plaza collapse, Bangladesh’s garment industry has come under a microscope: inquiries have been launched, western retailers have inspected factories, promises have been made. But Hazaribagh, the toxic, treacherous heart of the country’s multimillion-dollar leather industry in which about 15,000 people work, has quietly carried on as it has for decades.

It may be less notorious but it is no less appalling. The working conditions are brutal, illness is rampant and degradation of the environment is brazen.

Mohd Abdul Matin calls it another Rana Plaza — except this is a slow-moving, ongoing catastrophe.

Matin is a doctor and general secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon, an environmental organization in Dhaka that advocates for safe practices at its tanneries.

It is Rana “without a building collapse and the death of hundreds of workers at the same time,” says Matin. “Conditions are worse in tanneries but really, no one cares.”

Almost all of Bangladesh’s 200-plus tanneries are concentrated in Hazaribagh, a densely populated, filthy neighbourhood on the banks of the Buriganga River in southwestern Dhaka.

You can smell them long before you can see them: an unbearable stench of bad eggs, rotting fish and harsh ammonia. It’s almost impossible to walk through without a scarf pressed to your nose.

A child jumps on the waste products that are used to make poultry feed as she plays in a tannery at Hazaribagh in Dhaka.(Reuters / Andrew Biraj)

A child jumps on the waste products that are used to make poultry feed as she plays in a tannery at Hazaribagh in Dhaka.(Reuters / Andrew Biraj)

The Thousand Gardens, which is what Hazaribagh means in Bengali, is crammed with tanneries, big and small; one-room tin shacks where many tannery workers live; the seedy restaurants where chicken and indeterminate meat hang from formidable hooks and are covered in flies; the little corner stores that sell groceries and smokes.

At almost $1 billion a year in sales, the leather industry is one of Bangladesh’s most profitable sectors. Last year, it earned $451 million by exporting leather and leather products between July and December, an increase of about 20 per cent from the same period in 2011.

This year, the industry is expected to reach the $1.04-billion export target set by the government.

It exports leather all over, including Japan, Spain, China, South Korea, Italy, Germany, the U.S. and Canada.

The tanneries operate below the radar, without much accountability — for tannery owners or their customers — or regulation. Treated hides, the bulk of their exports, are sent to be manufactured elsewhere with the finished product bearing a label of where the products were made, not the source of the leather. Shoes, wallets and purses made in Italy, Spain and Germany — the tanneries’ chief importers — may well be made of Bangladesh leather.

It starts in India

Each year, about 14 million raw hides are processed to be transformed into leather, including the coveted “Bengali black” that is much in demand by European leather goods makers.

The route Bengali black takes before arriving in closets around the world begins in neighbouring India.

India, a predominantly Hindu country where cows are worshipped and their slaughter banned, has one of the world’s largest cattle populations. Yet surprisingly, about 1.5 million cattle, cows and buffalo, are taken out of the country every year for slaughter in Bangladesh — trade that is illegal but continues because of some complicit border officials and a long, porous border between the two countries.

Indian cattle are bought from northern states like Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, known as the “cow belt.” Middlemen trade them at auctions in West Bengal, which borders Bangladesh. The animals are then smuggled into Bangladesh.

Animal welfare organizations maintain that the cattle are inhumanely packed into trucks and trains throughout this journey.

Once in Bangladesh, they are slaughtered. Their meat is consumed and exported, their bones are ground and used as fertilizer, their hides are processed and exported.

Export growth has come slowly but is poised to boom, says Belal Hosain, chair of Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leather Goods and Footwear Exporters’ Association.

“Our competitive prices and higher standards are bringing more and more international buyers.”

It is going very well, he says.

Home amid the grime

Hussain thinks it is going well for him, too. He earns about $50 a month and sends half of it to his widowed mother in a village close to the Bay of Bengal in southern Bangladesh.

His father, a rice farmer, died when Cyclone Aila whipped Bangladesh in 2009, killing more than 300 people. He left behind a widow and five children; Hussain is the eldest. His mother now works as a daily wage labourer in rice fields but she never earns enough to feed the family. About a year ago, Hussain left school to work in a brick kiln near Khulna, a port city. It paid only $30 a month so when Hussain heard he could earn more in a tannery in Dhaka, he left quickly.

Hussain likes the money, not so much the long hours, the smell and how food tastes. Everything they eat is permeated with the stench and robbed of flavour.

Tippera Tannery, where Hussain works along with a dozen others, many of them teenaged boys, is the size of a basketball court, dominated by above-ground cement tanks. Part of the floor is taken over by gunny sacks filled with chemicals and salts. There are at least six piles of limed and salted hides, still covered in grimy animal hair. Other skins, in various stages of pickling and bleaching, sit in vats or drip from racks. A four-metre-high drum — like a gigantic wooden barrel — rumbles on rollers in the corner, drying the skins.
Working at the tanneries in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Working at the tanneries in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

There are no safety railings. Most workers, including Hussain, don’t wear protective gear such as masks, gloves or boots.

On the edge of one tank, three men in knee-length rubber boots are pushing hides into the pool of chemicals with long poles. They raise the hides, turn them over and push them down again.

There is raw hide everywhere — dripping, drying or dried.

Outside, barefoot young men push carts piled with skins in various stages of processing.

In the open gutters, a current of chemical waste, an unearthly blue-black oily fluid, slowly pushes through a scum of animal hair, bits of skin and rubbish. The gutters meander through Hazaribagh before emptying into the Buriganga.

That neighbourhood, that tannery, that shack is where Hussain calls home.

The World Health Organization says 90 per cent of Hazaribagh’s tannery workers will die before age 50. Most will suffer respiratory illnesses. Most will have skin diseases. Most will have started work as children.

Chromium has carcinogenic potential. Acidic effluents cause respiratory illnesses. Gaseous emissions contain sulfur dioxide that gets converted into sulfuric acid once in contact with moisture and damages lungs.

There are no data on how many workers have died in the six decades since the first tanneries started operations, says Matin. “This is Bangladesh . . . people dying isn’t really the priority. When I first started looking into it, people laughed at me. They said I was wasting my time because who would care about poor workers being sick or dying.”

Child labour at the tanneries in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Child labour at the tanneries in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

‘Accidents happen’

Ismail Leather, a few doors down, is a larger operation with 26 full-time and a dozen part-time employees. But inside it is almost the same as Tippera: raw hides covered in chemicals, big drums straightening and drying skins, the floor awash with blue-grey waste.

Hussain almost took a job there.

A friend from his village, Munir Mian, was working at Ismail and secured a job for Hussain. But a week before Hussain arrived, Mian lost three fingers on his right hand as he pried a raw hide from the machine. Hussain heard from others at the factory that Mian, bleeding profusely and holding his hand to his chest, took himself to the local hospital and eventually returned home.

Mian received no compensation and no one from the tannery checked on him while he was at the hospital.

Ismail Leather is a big factory, says Hussain. “I thought I would be better off at a smaller one where others look out for you.”

Shabir, 14, with no last name, is sitting on a stool wearing only a tiny blue loin cloth, washing hides. He knew Mian, they talked and joked around sometimes.

Shabir has been at the factory for a few months. He works nights and weekends so he can go to school and still earn money for his family.

His parents and two younger sisters live in a slum a few kilometres away. His father pulls a rickshaw, his mother works as a domestic helper.

Shabir says he is careful when around the heavy, archaic machinery. “Everyone knows accidents happen,” he says.

Human Rights Watch report in October 2012 titled Toxic Tanneries: The Health Repercussions of Bangladesh’s Hazaribagh Leather notes that accidents are common, follow-ups are not.

It quoted a senior official in Bangladesh’s Environment Department who admitted that “there is no monitoring and no enforcement in Hazaribagh.”

None at all, says Matin, who has been touring tanneries since the ’90s.

When workers get hurt, they leave because “there is no redress and no way they can do the same job again as they lose a limb.”

It is the way of life for tannery workers.

The tanneries in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The tanneries in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

From gutter to river

Bangladesh is a country criss-crossed by hundreds of rivers. The Buriganga, into which the tanneries’ effluents flow, is the source of drinking water and fish, and is crucial for ferrying merchandise. It flows through southwestern Dhaka and is economically vital as the boats that cross it provide connections to the other parts of Bangladesh.

It has been the lifeline of Dhaka and is now dying.

Buriganga is one of the most polluted rivers in the world. The government itself admits that about 21,000 cubic metres of untreated waste is dumped by tanneries into the river every day.

After the 60 years of tannery operations, no one knows how much has poured into the river, only that it is incalculable and staggering.

Chromium sulfate, lead, organohalogens, lime, hydrogen sulfide, sulfuric acid, formic acid, bleach, dyes and oils all flow through the gutters, into the river and eventually seep into farmlands and the Bay of Bengal ponds where rice is grown for the local population and prawns are farmed for export.

“These tanneries are not only poisoning the people who live there but others, too, hundreds of miles away,” says S.H.M. Fakhruddin, who specializes in water resources management.

The Buriganga’s water is so polluted that it has no fish, just black filth and chemicals, he says. “It is hard for people (in dinghies and small boats) to even row across the river.”

Pollutants have eaten up all oxygen in the river and it biologically dead, he says.

In the dry season between October and April, the river completely stagnates and the billions of litres of toxic waste from the local industries, mainly the tanneries, accumulate. The entire 54-kilometre stretch of the river turns into what Fakhruddin calls a “septic tank.”

Fakhruddin, who is from Dhaka but lives and works in Bangkok, Thailand, says chemicals such as cadmium and chromium and elements like mercury in industrial waste are creeping into the groundwater, posing a serious threat to public health.

One obvious solution is effluent treatment plants. But that means money and Matin says tannery owners have refused to fund them.

The other way out is to move the tanneries far from the river.

The multimillion-dollar move was first proposed by the government during the 1990s; a detailed proposal was floated in 2003. The plan was to move the industry to Savar, in northern Dhaka, where it had earmarked land for the tanneries and the country’s first large central effluent treatment plant. Costs and the unwillingness of the owners have deadlocked the proposal although a report in The Dhaka Tribune says the government hopes to make the move by 2016.

But Mohd. Ismail Hussain, the owner of Tippera Tannery, no relation to Hussain, says staggering logistics will kill the move. “Look around at all this (machinery),” he says pointing to the drums and trenches. “We can’t move this. Who will pay for this? And how will we even move this?”

He acknowledges that sludge from the tanneries drains into the Buriganga, and knows it cannot be good.

But he is emphatic that there are “absolutely no health risks. I have been in the business for 26 years and I live here and I eat here. Nothing is wrong with me. ”

Nearby, Hussain, is coughing and wiping his running nose on his shirt sleeve as he nails pieces of raw hide to the floor. He hammers four nails into each corner and then smoothes it with his palm. He is gentle, thorough.

He knows he has to do this right if he wants a long-term job. Any piece of hide that curls up at the ends when it is dry is useless and discarded. That makes his boss unhappy.

Hussain coughs some more, and says he is OK.

“I didn’t like not being home this Eid (in early August) but I got to send some extra money,” says Hussain.

His mother came to see him and brought him new clothes: two shirts and a pair of polyester pants. She also brought him a jar of masala prawns.

He wishes, though, he could have gone home for a few days and spent some time looking out at the Bay of Bengal. It is cleaner and the air easier to breathe. And it is where he used to play cricket.

Cricket brings a smile to his face, and he looks up.

“If I could find the time and the energy to play cricket like I did, I could live with how everything smells and tastes here.”

 

 

 

 

Human trafficking roundup nets 75 in Spain, France

Spanish national police released this photo of four suspects arrested in the human trafficking bust.

By Al Goodman, CNN

Madrid (CNN) — A gang that smuggled Chinese citizens into the United States and Europe, sometimes sexually exploiting them, has been busted with 75 arrests in Spain and France, authorities announced Saturday.

The trafficking ring was based in — and directed from — China, but its two suspected leaders in Europe were arrested in the operation, in Barcelona, Spanish national police said in a statement.

Besides the two main suspects, Spanish police arrested 49 others carrying forged passports at the airports in Barcelona, Madrid, Palma de Mallorca and five other cities. In France, there were 24 arrests.

The smugglers charged 40,000 to 50,000 euros ($53,000 to $66,000) to transport Chinese citizens, assigned with false identities, to the United States, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Britain, Ireland and Turkey, the statement said. Spain was the next-to-last stop for many before they went to the preferred locations of the United States and Britain, the statement said.

Police seized 81 forged passports, ostensibly from Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan — but all made in China, they said. Investigators also found three laptop computers, printers and 22 rubber stamps used to forge documents at homes they said the gang used in Barcelona, police said.

The probe began two years ago. Investigators said the trafficking ring was intricately structured, divided into independent and virtually isolated cells to avoid detection, police said.

The smugglers used their own set of trustworthy travel enforcers, well-versed in the airports and cities where the Chinese were taken. They kept the travelers under control, sometimes trying to pass them off unnoticed among groups of legitimate Chinese tourists.

The ring was quick to react to security changes on the ground at a given airport, swiftly changing to another destination where it would be easier to have their people slip past security controls, the statement said.

Once a delivery of smuggled Chinese citizens had been completed, the travel enforcers would return to their bases in China and Malaysia to await further instructions, and to avoid detection by Western police forces, police said.

Spanish police have been active in recent years in fighting human trafficking rings that lured citizens from Asia, Africa or Eastern Europe to Spain. The victims are often promised a better life, but then subjected to harsh forced labor conditions in clandestine factories or forced them into prostitution.