Police in 10 countries hold paedophile ring suspects

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The Independent Online

Detectives rounded up suspected members of an "élite" worldwide internet paedophile ring yesterday.

Detectives rounded up suspected members of an "élite" worldwide internet paedophile ring yesterday.

Twelve men were arrested, two of them in England, in raids in 10 countries by police investigating a depraved network styling itself as "The Round Table".

A man aged 29 was arrested in Bicester, Oxfordshire, and a man aged 34 was held in Kingston upon Thames, south-west London, by officers from the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit.

The Round Table gang is alleged to have constructed a purpose-built and password-protected chatroom for members to trade tens of thousands of photographs and video clips of child pornography.

They are said to have used sophisticated encryption techniques. The two men arrested in England were a computer software engineer and a graphics designer. Detectives were examining computer equipment and software taken from their homes.

A police operation, codenamed Artus and co-ordinated by Interpol, began four months ago after a tip-off to German police. Officers from the crime unit officers travelled to Lyon several weeks ago for an Interpol meeting. They were joined by colleagues from Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.

Detective Superintendent Mick Deats, who led the operation in England, said: "The operation has uncovered a group which considered themselves to be an élite group of paedo-philes. We mustn't lose sight of the fact that each photograph and video of sexual abuse is of a child and the work now begins to try to identify the children in those images. This is a victim- focused investigation, these children could be anywhere in the world."

The crime unit and the National Crime Squad are developing sophisticated software, which will help to identify the victims.

Ronald Noble, Interpol's secretary general, said: "This is the latest in a series of successful operations to combat the production and distribution of child pornography over the internet.

"Interpol has worked with national police agencies to ensure that the internet is not available for the selling or distribution of such vile and degrading criminal activity."