A “sadistic” online blackmailer has been jailed for 32 years after targeting almost 2,000 victims to amass images of child sexual abuse to sell on to other paedophiles.
Abdul Elahi, 26, was also ordered to register as a sex offender for life after admitting 158 charges committed against 72 complainants from around the world.
Elahi was sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday after the court heard how he tried to exploit victims in 34 different countries from 2017 to 2019.
At the start of a three-day hearing, Elahi was described as being “in a league of his own” in terms of the sheer scale of his offending, often “juggling” tens of potential victims while posing as a wealthy stockbroker offering financial help.
The court heard that some women and young girls were blackmailed into abusing a baby or a sibling by Elahi, who had offered to pay off debts with Bitcoin.
Elahi, whose youngest victim was just nine months old, also “acted as a mentor” to other online abusers, the court heard.
As well as posing as a finance worker, Elahi pretended to be a doctor, typically offering to pay large sums of money for intimate images, which he then used to coerce victims into filming increasingly degrading sexual acts.
In one series of offences, a teenager was told her parents would be killed if she did not comply with his orders.
Passing sentence on Elahi, Judge Sarah Buckingham said he had caused such distress while bullying and threatening women and girls that some had considered taking their own lives.
The judge told Elahi: “You seemingly sneered in the face of their despair and suggested that they should just record their efforts.”
The judge added: “Your distribution of indecent images was on a vast scale, which allowed you to make money.
“The true number of your victims likely runs into thousands. You inhabited a raft of ‘sugar daddy’ websites targeting financially desperate women.
“In some cases they could not afford to eat.
“You plainly derived pleasure from the agony you caused – with complete disregard for your victims’ suffering.
“There was a sadistic element to your offending, demonstrated through the blackmail and the relentless targeting of children and young adults.”
The judge told Elahi the Parole Board would only be able to consider his release after he had served two-thirds of his sentence.
He will also be subject to an eight-year extension to his normal licence period following his eventual release.
Around 550 females in Britain are believed to have been targeted by Elahi, who sold one customer more than 1,000 hours of videos after storing 67,000 indecent images.
During the offending Elahi was living in his family home and his only legitimate income was from working for a short period in a branch of McDonald’s.
Elahi, formerly of Allcroft Road, Sparkhill, Birmingham, admitted charges including 31 counts of blackmail, numerous child sexual abuse offences and fraud.
Co-defendant Kirsty Nicholls, 36, of Northolt, Middlesex, was jailed for six years and nine months for helping Elahi to make indecent images.
Nicholls, who met Elahi on a so-called sugar daddy website, was also arrested after a lengthy investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
The judge told Nicholls: “You committed these offences with Elahi – your offending was motivated entirely by financial gain.
“The offences are so serious that only an immediate sentence of custody can follow.”
After the sentencing, the UK-based Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) said it had taken action to find and remove online material linked to Elahi.
Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of the IWF, said: “Appalling crimes like this are becoming more and more prevalent as predatory and cynical abusers find new ways to reach and manipulate victims.
“Elahi is now being made to pay for what he has done, but his victims are still living with a sentence all of their own.”
Sarah Ingram, Specialist Prosecutor for the CPS International Justice and Organised Crime Division, said: “The extent of the depraved and sickening offences that Elahi committed is truly shocking.
“He manipulated vulnerable women and children for his personal gain, and his actions led others to do the same.
“He has ruined the lives of his victims, and it is right that he has been sentenced today to the full extent of the law for his crimes.”
Tony Cook, NCA head of CSA operations, added: “NCA investigators were horrified by what Elahi had done and stunned by the industrial scale of his worldwide offending.
“The effects on the victims in this case will continue throughout the rest of their lives. I commend them for their bravery and I urge anyone who is being abused online to report it. There is help available.
“There are very many offenders like Elahi who mask their real identities with convincing personas to exploit both children and adults. It’s vital that parents speak with their children about who they communicate with online and what they share. These offences can happen to anyone.
“We thank our international partners especially the FBI for the support given to us on this case.”