PESHAWAR: The Federal Investigation Agency’s Cyber Crime Wing has arrested a young person here on the charges of child pornography and criminal intimidation after receiving a complaint from its US counterpart, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), about the accused hacking the Snapchat account of a minor American girl and blackmailing her.

The FIA officials told Dawn that Anas Tariq, son of a retired government official, was taken into custody late on Wednesday from Phase VI area of Hayatabad.

Tahir Khan, deputy director of the FIA Cyber Crime Wing, said the youth, who was a BBA student in a local university, was arrested on the basis of the information provided by the FBI.

He said according to the information shared by the US authorities, the accused hacked the Snapchat account of a minor girl from Reston, Virginia, accessed her nude pictures on the account, and tried to coerce her into a nude video-chat.

The official said though the FIA was sending the accused’s mobile phone for forensic analysis, the data recovered earlier corroborated the charges against him.

Action taken on FBI’s complaint

He said the First Information Report had been registered against the accused at the Police Station Cyber Crime Reporting Centre under sections 3, 4, 21, 22 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, and Section 506 of the Pakistan Penal Code for ‘an unauthorised access to system or data, unauthorised copying of system or data, offences against modesty of natural person and minor and producing and transmitting child pornography and criminal intimidation’.

The FIR added that an inquiry was launched after the FBI informed the Child Pornography Cell of the FIA’s Cyber Crime Wing about a person from Hayatabad area in Peshawar, who was abusing and sexually extorting a minor from Virginia.

It said on July 1, FBI’s Washington Field Office received information that a minor girl from Reston neighbourhood of Virginia was a victim of sextortion.

The minor girl’s Snapchat account was taken over by an unknown subject earlier on June 1 and the he subsequently locked the victim out of her account and threatened to release nudes of her, which the accused had retrieved from the hacked account, if the minor did not engaged in video chat with him and produced child pornography for him.

The FBI said the minor and law-enforcement agencies tried to contact Snapchat on multiple occasions to have the hacked account deactivated but it remained unresponsive.

“On or about July 12, 2021, the subject using the girl’s account distributed the nude photo of the [minor] to [her] Snapchat contact via direct message,” the FIR read.

Facebook, a popular social networking website, provided the details of the Instagram account, Kernia_226, following a subpoena, which the FBI shared with the FIA.

The FIR said under search and arrest warrant, FIA raided the house of the accused, detained him along with his father and seized their mobile phones.

The accused’s father told the FIA investigators that his son was using the mobile number registered against his Computerised National Identity Card number. The accused also confessed to using that SIM card.

The FIA later released the accused’s father on the production of a bail bond.

The accused admitted to hacking the Snapchat account of the minor girl, gaining an access to her nude pictures from a folder, and using those pictures to blackmail her.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2021

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