all aged between 15 and 17
Three men have appeared in court in connection with a police operation that smashed a local child sex abuse ring.
George Bezzina a 57-year-old cleaner from Senglea, Alexander Caruana, also 57, a bread vendor from Valletta and Raymond Charles Buttigieg 47, a sales manager from Birkirkara, were arraigned under arrest before magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech today, accused of forming part of a child sex ring that paid underage adolescent boys for sex.
It is understood that the men had offered money to three teenage boys, in exchange for performing sex acts on them. Between them, the men are accused of abusing five boys in total, all aged between 15 and 17.
The investigation was started after foreign authorities sent information regarding one of the men. The court was told that a pen drive containing pornographic material had been seized by the police. It is understood that they had downloaded and shared the images with other pedophiles.
Inspector Joseph Busuttil from the police vice squad charged the men with list of offences connected to inducing underage persons to prostitution, using violence to instigate participation in a pornographic performance, participation in sexual activities with underage persons, unlawful sexual activities, several offences relating to pornography and possession of indecent images of underage persons.
Malta has a population of a little over 400,000
Bezzina alone was also charged with possession of cannabis in circumstances which indicated the drug was not intended solely for his personal consumption. His defence lawyer's dogged attempts to convince the court that the accused's movements could be controlled if he were to be granted bail were in vain, as the court pointed out that the accused had already been convicted of similar crimes and there were two minors who were yet to testify.
Inspector Busuttil told the court that Bezzina had, in fact, been jailed for similar crimes in 2010, having also been given a treatment order. There are understood to be at least two minors who are going to testify, with the possibility of more coming to light as the investigation progresses.
Bail was refused to Bezzina and Caruana, as was the defence's request to ban the publication of the name of the accused, on the grounds that they had no family ties to the victims. Buttigieg did not request bail.
The court ordered a ban on the publication of the victims' names.
The men were remanded in custody. The court issued a protection order for the victims.