Man on trial accused of corrupting minors online

The accused, 32, allegedly exposed himself during video calls with children and sent them photos of his private parts

The court heard that one of the children told her parents about the man after a talk on online abuse from police at her school
The court heard that one of the children told her parents about the man after a talk on online abuse from police at her school

A 32-year-old man has gone on trial, accused of corrupting three minors via webcam.

Ahmad Ali Younes Ikbal, from Libya is indicted for allegedly having forced a 13-year-old boy to perform sex-related acts on camera and corrupting two girls, aged 13 and 14. Mr. Justice Aaron Bugeja will try the accused without a jury, upholding an application filed by the accused who wished to avail himself of this legal right.

Before the criminal court on Monday, Ikbal pleaded not guilty to the charges on indictment.

The court imposed a ban on the publication of the names of the alleged victims and upheld a request that they be allowed to testify via video link

Prosecutor Angele Vella gave a brief summary of the prosecution’s case against the man. He is accused of corruption of minors aged under 15, namely a 12-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and a 14-year-old girl. Ikbal has a sexual fetish for children’s feet, explained the prosecutor. 
“He would use Instagram, Skype and Facebook, amongst other social media platforms, to trap innocent children,” she said, reminding the court that the offences for which he is indicted did not require proof of intent to corrupt the children, in order to find guilt. “The crime of corruption of minors doesn’t require contact, even the presence of the minor is sufficient,” said the lawyer.

The accused would use fake names and profiles, sometimes even posing as a woman, to make initial contact with his victims on Instagram, before then telling them to move to Skype.

During the video call, Ikbal would pleasure himself in full view of the alleged victim. 

The youngest of them, the 12-year-old boy, had immediately been uncomfortable and had told the accused that he didn’t want to carry on with the video calls, but had been forced to comply when the accused threatened to publish screen grabs from his conversation with the boy. “He forced him to meet online some four times, rendering it a continuous offence, before the boy told his father about the abuse.” The victim’s father had then filed a police report.

The accused had subsequently uploaded a screenshot of the boy, taken during the video chat, to Facebook and used it to draw in more children, she said.

Ikbal had also sent a photo, showing only his private parts, to the 13-year-old girl. She had saved the picture and informed her parents after attending a talk about online abuse given by the police at her school.

“He thought that if he only sent photographs of his private parts he would not be caught. But …if you go online you are traceable,” Vella said. Officers from the Police’s Cybercrime Unit had traced the IP address to Ikbal and raided his house, seizing his phone amongst other things. On that phone the police had discovered a similar conversation, this time with a 14-year-old girl on Instagram.

There was a lot of circumstantial evidence, said the prosecutor. "Circumstances do not lie. The accused has no way out of this."

Vice Squad Inspector John Spiteri took the witness stand, explaining how the police had received a report from the parents of one of the children on 12 April 2018. 

The police noted a number of similarities with previous reports that they had received through SIRENE, leading them to suspect that the reports could be linked. The inspector ordered that the cases be investigated together and it was noted that a number of social media profiles involved seemed to be using the same IP address.

The trial continues.

Lawyers Angele Vella and Danika Vella are prosecuting on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General. Lawyer Joe Brincat is defence counsel.