Former Tory official faces questioning in child porn inquiry: Obscene Publications Squad seizes 500 gay sex videos in raid on Brighton home of ex-Conservative. Steve Boggan reports

A FORMER Conservative constituency official is at the centre of a child pornography investigation spanning Europe and South-east Asia.

Mike Land, a former deputy chairman of Kemptown Conservative Association in Brighton, East Sussex, is to be questioned by Scotland Yard's Obscene Publications Squad following the seizure from his home of 500 gay porn videos including at least three which feature explicit sex acts with boys thought to be under 15.

It is understood a file is to be passed to the Crown Prosecution Service following a five-month investigation which examined links in Thailand and North Africa.

John Hogsden, a Brighton businessman with whom Mr Land has close connections, is also wanted for questioning. Police have seized more than 50 video cassettes from his home, Bramble Cottage in Ovingdean, near Brighton, about three-quarters of which are understood to contain child-sex scenes made with a camcorder, probably in Thailand.

Nine video cassette recorders and a computer system with 150 floppy disks were also taken from Mr Land's home. Police computer experts are examining the floppy disks to see if they contain a list of subscribers.

Mr Hogsden used to rent a room for pounds 35 a week from Mr Land at his four-storey home in Egremont Place, Brighton, from which a considerable mail-order pornography operation is believed to have been based. Scotland Yard officers raided both premises last September but neither man has been charged. Detectives, who refuse to discuss the case, are still viewing the confiscated material.

Mr Hogsden, 52, the owner of a cafe and another business concern on Brighton's Palace Pier, has been living in an hotel he bought in Agadir, Morocco, since his home was raided. He is not expected to return to Britain.

In an interview with the Independent, Mr Land said the porn business was run by Mr Hogsden without his knowledge. However, as the taped interview progressed, Mr Land, a member of the Kemptown executive committee during the 1980s, admitted knowing about the mail order operation, the Post Office box where orders were received, the countries from which pornographic videos were bought for copying, the prices at which they were sold - pounds 20 - and was able to name at least one of the high-profile customers Mr Hogsden 'boasted' about having on his mailing list.

He strenuously denied that any of the videos seized featured children and he said he was in no way involved. In fact, the Independent has confirmed that some of the videos were aimed at the paedophile market and that Mr Land's name was on the mailing box at Brighton Post Office at which orders were received.

Sources say the men operated their business under the name J Heath. They produced a catalogue with about 50 titles, most of which were gay pornography under the titles 'Brilliant Boys' and 'Golden Boys'. Mr Land told the Independent other titles were from the 'American Colt' pornographic range bought by Mr Hogsden.

'They were homosexual videos, not children,' said Mr Land. 'The police said it was an international paedophile ring and that's absolute nonsense. John used to go over to France, he used to go to Amsterdam and he used to buy these things over the counter . . . and bring them back in a suitcase.

'The makes of them were American Colt, which are basically the bodybuilder type. There were never, to my knowledge, any children involved whatsoever. He (Mr Hogsden) was not interested in that. There are very few heterosexuals interested in child pornography. In the same way, the number of homosexuals interested is a very low percentage.'

When police raided the second- floor room in Mr Land's house, sources say they found 500 videos neatly racked. There was a bank of nine video recorders for reproduction, a television and a stacked computer system with disk records that are still being analysed.

At the time, Scotland Yard announced it had cracked a major child pornography ring.

Mr Land, 50, is a former London School of Economics student and the founder of the Brighton Line Commuters' Association pressure group. After a period as local chairman of the Liberal Party, he switched to the Tories and became deputy chairman of the Kemptown association in the mid-1980s.

He stood as a Conservative candidate in the Brighton Borough Council elections in 1990 but said he left the association when he was replaced by a woman whose husband had made a large donation to the party.

(Photographs omitted)

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