Police smash child porn ring with raids across 12 countries

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of people across two continents have been arrested in a Spanish-led operation to break a child pornography ring operating via the internet.

Hundreds of people across two continents have been arrested in a Spanish-led operation to break a child pornography ring operating via the internet.

Police mounted raids in France, Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands, as well as in seven Latin American countries, taking a total of 500 people into custody. In Spain, 19 people were arrested, accused of exchanging pornographic material.

Jose Antonio Alonso, Spain's Interior Minister, said yesterday's raids were "a very important operation against the infamous indecency that is the use of children for pornography."

The inquiry was launched by the Guardia Civil after a resident of the Galician port of Pontevedra, in the north-west of the country, reported seeing explicit and "highly aggressive" pornographic photographs of very young children on a Spanish-language internet chat site.

Police began monitoring the chatroom to establish who offered material to it and, within a fortnight, had tracked down more than 900 internet addresses throughout Europe and the Spanish-speaking world from which people logged on.

Officers also traced the exchange of some 20,000 videos, photographs and MP3 images of child pornography.

At this point, the Guardia Civil, in co-operation with Spain's state prosecution service, enlisted the help of their European and Latin American judicial co-operation organisations, Eurojust and IberRed, a spokesman said. Officers seized enormous quantities of computer data, video cameras, CDs, videos, photographs and other documents. The material was being investigated yesterday, and officials did not rule out further arrests.

Yesterday's round-up apparently had no direct link to recent crackdowns on paedophile networks in Spain. Last month, 18 people were arrested for filming themselves sexually abusing children and exchanging the images on the internet. A network of internet child pornography was dismantled in Spain at the end of January and nine people arrested.

Last November, 90 people were questioned about possessing thousands of photos and DVDs of infant pornography. That operation was the biggest round-up against child pornography in Spain. Those detained, all Spaniards, included teachers, lecturers, students, computer engineers, cleaning staff, civil servants and military officers; 21 of those detained were themselves minors.

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