BANGKOK – A Sydney man has been arrested in Thailand on paedophile-related charges after Australian Federal Police (AFP) allegedly intercepted photographs emailed to Australia.
Ian Potterton, 51, was detained by Thai authorities on Thursday before boarding an Australian-bound flight at Bangkok’s International Airport after a short holiday in Thailand, a Thai police official from the Anti-Human Trafficking Division said.
On Friday, Potterton arrived at Crime Suppression Division Headquarters, his hand bandaged after spending a night in hospital receiving treatment for bronchitis and pneumonia.
Senior Thai police said the charges related to nude photographs of a 15-year-old Thai boy sent to Australia.
Potterton denies the charges, saying the pictures are of a “non-sexual nature” and he’s the victim of over-zealous policing.
His arrest followed a tip-off by the AFP to Thai authorities.
John Tanti, a superintendent and senior liaison officer for AFP Bangkok, said Potterton was facing charges related to Thai law.
“This is the culmination of a joint operation between Thai law enforcement, Royal Thai Police,” Mr Tanti said.
He said the arrest and charges represented a warning to child sex offenders.
“This stands as an existing and future warning to would-be child sex offenders that our co-operation is extensive and we’re both very determined to pursue people that would commit offences against children,” Mr Tanti said.
Police intelligence units in Australia had allegedly uncovered the photos on the internet and the information was passed on to the AFP, who then contacted Thai authorities.
“I don’t want to talk to the specifics of this case because it might compromise other court matters that are happening here or elsewhere,” Mr Tanti said.
Potterton denies the charges.
“I’m disgusted with the Australian Federal Police’s sending of photos of a non-sexual nature regarding my time in Thailand and letting the Thai police (know) that they should possibly act on this,” Potterton said at the police headquarters.
“It is reprehensible behaviour by the Australian Federal Police.”
He claims complete innocence of the charges, saying he had fallen ill after diving into a pool to save the boy from drowning.
Potterton said because he had swum in the pool to save “a boy from a rock waterfall pool two Sundays ago and drinking the local water”, he had fallen ill and had been staying with friends.
“I was staying with a family in a public place at the waterfall (in northern Thailand). A photograph was taken of nude kids in that waterfall setting and then the Australian Federal Police have got a hold of that, apparently, and then sent it back here to the Thai police,” he said.
“This is what we’re looking at, this trouble now, and it is totally scurrilous that I’ve been put through this with no basis of fact in these allegations and these charges.
“It’s outrageous and I look forward to defending myself strongly against these charges.”
No date has yet been set for a court hearing. The charges carry a punishment of up to 10 years jail and 20,000 baht ($750) fine.