CANBERRA, Australia - A two year investigation by Australian Federal Police has netted a gang of four people involved in parental abductions.
Astonishingly one of the four is an 83-year old man, and another is a 78-year old woman.
The Australian law enforcement agency said Thursday it has arrested three men and served a Court Attendance Notice on a woman as part of a long-running investigation into people assisting the parental abduction of children across Australia.
Two men from the northern New South Wales city of Grafton were scheduled to face Grafton Local Court on Thursday morning on charges related to their alleged roles in organising and financing activities that resulted in the abduction of three children in contravention of family law orders. All three children have since been safely located by police.
An 83-year-old man from the northern Queesland city of Townsville was charged for his alleged involvement in assisting the two Grafton men in their activities. He was scheduled to appear before the Townsville Local Court on Thursday.
A Prosecution Notice was served on a 78-year-old Perth woman for her alleged role in the gang's operations, on Wednesday. She will face court on 14 December 2018.
Australian Federal Police investigators say they executed 10 search warrants in the NSW towns of Grafton and Dubbo in the Central West, along with locations in Perth. one warrant was of a sailing vessel.
Police say a 64-year-old man arrested in Grafton on Thursday morning was the key financier and organiser of efforts to help two separate women abduct their children, contrary to family law orders, and conceal them from authorities.
It will be alleged in court that a 63-year-old Grafton man was a co-organiser of efforts to assist two separate women abduct and hide their children. It will also be alleged that he assisted in the movement of money to these women and actively tried to portray the fathers in these matters as child abusers in social media and other public forums.
Debbie Platz, Assistant Commissioner Crime Operations of the federal law enforcement agency, said investigators had disrupted an organised and well-resourced group of people demonstrating a complete disregard for the rule of law and decisions of the courts.
"The actions of this group do not protect children. What it does is potentially endanger the safety and wellbeing of them," she said.
"During this two-year investigation, ten missing children have been safely located in the custody of a parent who has abducted them. Five of these are believed to be linked to this group of people."
"I would also like to thank our partners at the Queensland Police Service for the assistance they have provided throughout this complex investigation," the assistant commissioner said.
"We believe this group has sought assistance from other people, some who may be unaware of their involvement in criminal activity, so we are urging anyone with any knowledge about these activities to come forward to the Australian Federal Police."