Tuesday, November 20, 2007

100 arrests hit world paedophile ring

Taken from the Guardian, UK, November 5, 2007
By David Batty and agencies

More than 100 people in 19 countries have been arrested in an operation to dismantle a major international paedophile network, police said today.

The arrests follow an investigation into an Italian-based website that produced "tailor-made" child abuse images for 2,500 customers, according to the European police agency Europol.

In the past five months 46 people in the UK have been arrested in the operation, codenamed Koala, according to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop).

There have also been 21 arrests in France, 11 in Spain and eight in Sweden.

"We have identified 2,500 customers from around the world. School teachers, swimming instructors, lawyers, IT executives," said Europol investigator Menno Hagemeijer. Some customers even travelled to the studio to watch and record the abuse and make their own videos.

"These [videos] were tailor-made orders. We want this girl in this pose in this lingerie," said Belgian prosecutor Michele Coninsx.

Europol and the EU prosecution body Eurojust launched the operation last year following the arrest of Marzola Sergio, 42, who ran the website.

He produced most of his videos in Ukraine, where police have identified 21 victims so far.

One of the videos showed a father sexually abusing his daughters aged nine and 11, according to Ceop.

Jim Gamble, chief executive of Ceop, said there were likely to be further arrests from the global investigation.

He said: "Yet again we see the technology used by paedophiles to facilitate child abuse now turned against them as a result of co-ordinated and effective international law enforcement cooperation.

"Operation Koala uncovered the true meaning of 'online child abuse': in this case, the exchanging of images in which real children were subjected to horrific sexual abuse, often to order."

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