Arrest of alleged child trafficking TikTok gang sparks shock in Lebanon

At least six people have been arrested on accusations they used social media platform to groom and sexually assault children

Some of the six people arrested in the case in Lebanon were said to be well-known on TikTok. AP
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The exposure of an alleged child sex-trafficking ring involving a famous Lebanese TikTok influencer has caused shock in Lebanon.

At least six people were arrested this week in a long-standing investigation after children said they had been forced to take drugs and were sexually assaulted by a gang of traffickers.

“We don’t know how many people were involved in it yet,” a security source told The National. “We can’t put a number on it because we are constantly uncovering new information.

“It’s a very serious case. The investigation is progressing.”

The police on Wednesday confirmed the arrests after children lodged complaints with the prosecutors that they had been “subjected to sexual assaults, photographed by members of an organised gang and forced to take drugs in several hotels”, a statement by Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces said.

Three of those arrested were minors who were well-known on TikTok, it added.

The minors were used to lure other children who were allegedly “drugged, raped and blackmailed into promoting drugs”, a judicial official told AFP on Thursday.

Among those arrested was a Lebanese influencer on social platform TikTok.

Lebanese media outlets named the influencer as George Moubayed, a hairdresser and owner of a men’s hair salon called Hair Zone.

Media reports claimed he was the alleged head of the child trafficking network.

Journalist and producer Ahmad Yassine told The National he had confirmed with judicial sources that the arrested influencer was Moubayed.

“He is one of the most famous TikTokers in Lebanon,” Mr Yassine said.

The hairdresser's salon is in the Metn neighbourhood of Sabtyieh near Beirut, and he is known for creating and filming unusual and colourful hairstyles that appealed to children.

The TikToker and other members of the network were arrested “on charges of luring children and raping them”, Lebanese channel MTV reported.

Those arrested are accused of luring minors into compromising situations through various means, such as impersonating a girl online, promising fame or offering to film social media collaborations with aspiring influencers.

The case has caused shock and anger in Lebanon.

“Our children are at risk online if the maximum measures are not implemented against these criminals,” MP Michel Douaihy tweeted on Thursday.

“Let decisive measures be taken, extreme measures implemented, and the most severe punishments imposed on all the aggressors.”

Updated: May 03, 2024, 5:20 PM