- A Norwegian teacher has been charged with sexual abuse of a 12-year-old boy in The Gambia. The case is rolled up by Norwegian police in Norway. The Gambia has increasingly earned a reputation of paedophile sex tourism and Gambian police is accused of not taking the growing problem seriously, or even of cooperating with criminal gangs.
Norwegian police inform about a national citizen in his 50s who is formally charged with abusing a 12-year-old boy while on holiday in The Gambia. The sexual abuse is to have happened on a hotel "popular among Scandinavians" in The Gambia, where he had lived together with the boy, the Norwegian daily 'Aftenposten' reports.
The Norwegian teacher had spent four holidays in the same hotel, getting to know the Gambian boy and his family during his first stay. The man had provided the boy with generous pocket money and his family with economic support, including the boy's private school fees.
The case was brought to attention by the elder cousin of the boy, who reported the suspicious behaviour to an 'Aftenposten' journalist and Gambian police. Local police questioned the boy, who after some time confirmed he had been sexually exploited. The accused Norwegian man however managed to catch an earlier flight back home, thus avoiding detention in The Gambia.
In Oslo, he was nevertheless expected by Norwegian police. According to Norwegian legislation, national citizens can be charged with sexual exploitation of children committed abroad.
Oslo police are to continue the investigations of the case as they hold that evidence gathered by Gambian police probably would not stand in a Norwegian court. Norwegian police officers, who may be headed for The Gambia, however didn't want to openly criticise their Gambian colleagues on the proceedings of the current case.
At earlier crossroads, however, Norwegian and Swedish police have voiced strong concern over practices in Gambian police departments. In several cases concerning organised crime, for example smuggling of stolen cars from Scandinavia by Gambian gangs, Gambian police were said to drain investigations. Scandinavian police officers indicated links between the criminal gangs and Gambian police.
Also regarding the increased paedophile sex-tourism in The Gambia, the police have been accused of indifference. In February last year, the Dutch chapter of the organisation Terre des Hommes documented that child sex tourism to The Gambia is increasing alarmingly while Gambian police had dedicated little resources to fight the problem.
The group investigated the situation in Gambian tourist resorts and found traces of organised pimping and more occasional intermediary services by hotel guards, taxi drivers and others in contact with tourists. As the child sex industry was becoming better organised, children were caught in the prostitution networks. Organised child prostitution was increasingly based on refugee children from war-ravaged neighbour countries, which are outside protecting family network.
The most common cases of child abuse were however established through direct contact from the paedophile tourist. One of the typical ways of contacting the children is establishing a relation to a poor family by "offering financial help for buying food and then offering school sponsorship to children," Terre des Hommes found in 2003.
According to the group, Gambian authorities had been too passive regarding child sex tourism for a long time, but were now starting to take the problem seriously. New tourism legislation is sharpening the reaction on child abuse. Gambian police also have improved their cooperation with European police to stop known paedophile from entering and to lead investigations across the borders.
Some 100,000 tourist - almost all Europeans - visit Gambian resorts each year, creating new legal and illegal industries along the country's short coastline. Most tourists are Dutch, Scandinavian, German and British and almost all of them only come to enjoy the beaches and the Gambian culture.
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