RCMP who confirmed the arrest in the Netherlands of a man linked to the online sexual extortion of B.C. teen Amanda Todd and possibly dozens of other victims say other Canadian children might have been targeted in a case that is focusing on the man's computer.
The suspect has been identified in court documents as 35-year-old Aydin Coban, a Dutch national who faces numerous charges in Canada and the Netherlands in connection with the Todd case.
The National Child Exploitation Co-ordination Centre (NCECC) says the investigation includes suspected victims from Canada and other countries, including the U.S., the U.K. and the Netherlands.
International investigation Insp. Bob Resch says the majority of the victims identified in Canada are children.
"All the police forces and jurisdictions where those victims are located have been notified and been in contact with those victims and have advanced their investigations accordingly," he said.
The prosecution service in the Netherlands said in a news release that Coban was arrested three months ago and is suspected of encouraging underage girls in several countries to perform sexual acts in front of a web camera.
Mathijs Pennings, a reporter who worked on the story for broadcaster Omroep Brabant, said prosecutors and police believe there could be as many as 40 victims.
"The prosecutors and police think he made footage of the web cam and blackmailed her with the pictures, and he did that with other kids, too, around the world," Pennings told The Canadian Press in an interview from Tilburg, located just west of Oisterwijk, where Coban was arrested.
Prosecutors say the accused is also thought to have blackmailed adult men in a somewhat similar way, by convincing them that he was an underage boy, convincing them to perform sexual acts on camera, and then threatening to turn the images over to the police.
Todd was 15 years old when she killed herself in October 2012 shortly after detailing in an internet video her story of unrelenting harassment by an internet predator. Her case made international headlines and fuelled a debate about bullying and online sexual exploitation.
Authorities in the Netherlands were tipped off by an American internet provider and seized computers when Coban was arrested, said Pennings.
The suspect was arrested at a vacation home in Oisterwijk, located about 100 kilometres south of Amsterdam.
Charges in 2 countries
The suspect is being held in the Netherlands on charges of indecent assault, the production and dissemination of child pornography, fraud, computer intrusion and the possession of hard drugs.
The RCMP have laid five charges of their own, including child pornography, extortion, criminal harassment and internet luring.
RCMP Insp. Paulette Freill said all the RCMP charges are related to incidents alleged to have happened between Jan. 1, 2010, and Oct. 20, 2012 — the same day Todd died.
Police wouldn't say if their work in Canada led Dutch police to their suspect or if it was the other way around.
Coban's lawyer, Christian van Dijk, said he doesn't believe prosecutors have sufficient evidence to convict his client. He said even if there is evidence of unlawful activity on the man's computer, it may have been hacked.
"Prosecutors seem to think they have a big fish here, but if I see the evidence, it's not much," he said. "Lots of references to IP addresses and such."
Pennings said Coban, who is not married and does not have any children, was born in the Netherlands but also has a Turkish passport.
Accused may never appear in B.C. court
The B.C. Criminal Justice Branch says the federal Department of Justice must request the man's extradition, but given the ongoing criminal case in the Netherlands, it's impossible to say when the man might be in a B.C. court. Dutch prosecution spokesman Paul van der Zande said the accused must first go through the Dutch legal process.
Amanda Todd's story, and others like it, prompted the Canadian government to propose legislation that would make it a criminal offence to distribute intimate images without the consent of the person shown.
Pennings said Dutch people are familiar with Todd's story.
"It was all around the news here too, so her video was watched by many Dutch people," he said.
"People know the story of Amanda Todd."