An Australian businessman who ran a child cybersex den in the Philippines has been handed three life sentences in a Cebu court on Tuesday (20 February).
Drew Frederick Shobbrook, from Sydney and his Filipina partner, Leslie Ann Fernandez who ran the ring were found guilty of two counts of human trafficking and child pornography in Cebu. Fernandez was also given a life imprisonment sentence.
Judge Marlon Moneva of the Regional Trial Court Brach 20 has also ordered Shobbrook to pay a fine of 3m Philippine peso (£41,000), ABS-CBN website reported.
National Bureau of Investigation agents who had raided the 51-year-old's three apartments in 2013 had found sex toys, used condoms, sex pills and computers with pornographic materials, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Fifteen minor girls who had also been paid to perform lewd acts in front of the web camera were also taken into protective custody. The girls told the court that Shobbrook had offered them for sex to other foreigners.
According to court documents, at the time of his arrest in 2013, Shobbrook had claimed that he ran a bookkeeping business and had employed seven Filipino staff. He had been living in the Philippines since 2011.
"I have been falsely accused," he had said.
According to Salvador Solima, lawyer of the accused, the pair will be appealing the sentences, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
John Tanagho, field officer director in Cebu for the International Justice Mission, said that the conviction "sends a strong message that if you sexually abuse and exploit Filipino children online and create child pornography you will be convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment".
Child welfare advocates have hailed the conviction as a landmark case in efforts to shut down the Philippines' booming cybersex industry. Law enforcement agencies said that this ring attracts hundreds of Australian paedophiles.
Four Filipinos have also been charged with witness tampering which could possibly be 15 years in jail, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.