An online abuser and blackmailer has been jailed for 32 years for targeting around 2,000 victims around the world and forcing them to commit sex offences.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) describes the crimes of Abdul Elahi as “some of the most sickening sexual offending” it has ever investigated.
Elahi, 26, from Birmingham, blackmailed his victims into abusing themselves, their siblings and children and then sold the footage on as “box sets” to other paedophiles.
From his home in Sparkhill, he posed as a stockbroker or rich businessman on sugar daddy websites and singled out victims who were in debt or too young to legitimately be on the sites.
He would then trick them into sending him naked or partially clothed images of themselves, promising payments of thousands of pounds for the pictures.
He would then threaten to expose the images to the victims’ family and friends unless they sent more pictures.
His offences included blackmailing victims to horrifically abuse themselves, siblings and children.
He made more than £25,000 from selling the pictures.
He was sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday. When he’s released from prison, he will be on licence for eight years.
Victims say they were asked for ‘degrading’ photos
Megan, whose name has been changed, says he contacted her through Instagram in 2018, offering her large sums of money for lingerie photos.
She says he told her he needed pictures of her IDs as a form of verification, and later threatened to send her lingerie photos to her parents’ and work addresses if she did not meet his demands.
He “eventually asked for more and more naked photos and then more violent and graphic pictures – violence inflicting on myself, asking if I’ve got younger siblings, if I knew any close people that were younger than me… and then just got more and more graphic… just really degrading stuff”.
“And then obviously you say no, and then he just reminds you of the addresses that he’s got,” she said.
She says she blocked him on social media and reported him to police.
“The basic message I got from them was just that I shouldn’t have done it,” she says, “and there’s not really much they can do because it’s through WhatsApp, which is all encrypted messaging.
“A lot of it for me was on Skype as well, so there was pretty much no evidence of the details of what he’d done.”
Sonia, another victim whose name has been changed, says he approached her on Twitter offering to help her with her financial problems after she posted about them.
“At first, it was very minimal on what he’s asking,” she says. “He just asked for some basic pictures. And then he went on to videos, and then he requested for more degrading, quite hurtful videos, pictures.”
When she eventually refused one of his requests, she says, “he became quite aggressive” and threatened to send pictures to her family and friends.
She says she told police and was later contacted by the NCA.
“It’s really affected me with partners, particularly because anyone that I meet, I think, ‘Have they already seen it? Do they know?'” she says.
‘One of the largest online sexual grooming offences that we’ve seen’
Heather Wilkinson from the CPS says that by working with the NCA, they have removed more than 100,000 images that were posted by Elahi.
“In my experience, this is one of the largest online sexual grooming offences that we’ve seen,” she says.
“Once he’d obtained the initial imagery from these women and children, he would use that to blackmail them.
“They were scared to say no. They were threatened. They were defenceless.
“He went on to ask them to commit serious sexual acts, humiliating, degrading imagery obtained from them. This was for his own perverse sexual interest, but also to trade online”.
Elahi admitted 158 charges committed against 72 victims.
It’s believed the true number of victims is close to 2,000 from 34 different countries.
Elahi explains how he approached victims online
In a recording of an interview while in custody, he can be heard describing his offending, and how he approached his victims online.
“Before anything, find out her financial situation,” he tells an investigator. “Does she need the money today? How badly is she struggling.”
He continues: “Once I had that info, OK, tell me how much money do you have?
“I’ll give them my offer, and I’ll say to them ‘blah blah blah’ I’m interested in paying you for some videos and pictures today. I’ll give you between £500 and £2,000. If they were stupid, I could blag it and mention £10,000 or £20,000.
“Some of the girls would believe it and ask ‘how can I make more money?’ and I’d just say ‘kinkier stuff’.”
He goes on to admit that sometimes he would change his manner to become more frightening.
Selling images online was his full-time career
He carried out the abuse over the three-year period from 2017 to 2019.
During the offending, he was living in his family home and his only legitimate income was working for a short time in a McDonald’s.
He eventually admitted that selling the images online was his full-time career and occupation.
He also acted as a mentor to other online abusers, training copycat offenders who also targeted some of his victims.
Tony Cook, head of child sexual abuse operations at the National Crime Agency, says it is “one of the most serious and complex cases we’ve had”.
“We’re dealing with an enormous amount of victims and an enormous amount of evidence… offending on a global scale,” he says.
“This is an offender who was a careless, deviant, twisted individual who preyed on vulnerable people.”