Wednesday, September 2, 1998

11:23 a.m. EDT

Global Internet child porn club raided

LONDON (CNN) -- Police in 14 countries Wednesday raided the homes of about 200 suspected pedophiles in what authorities called one of the largest efforts ever to break an Internet child pornography ring.

The British National Crime Squad coordinated the early morning raids as part of a five-month investigation into a U.S.-based club known as "Wonderland." Members exchanged pornographic pictures of children as young as 2 on the Internet, authorities said.

During the investigation, code-named "Cathedral," police said they found a database containing more than 100,000 pornographic photographs of naked boys and girls and confiscated computers and computer programs from dozens of suspects. Some of the children whose images were used in the club were related to the suspects arrested.

"I am unaware of another police operation (against child pornography) that has ever pulled together so many law enforcement agencies worldwide to effect simultaneous raids and arrests," said Bob Packham, deputy director general of the National Crime Squad.

Police said as many as 10 other countries were planning additional raids in connection with the ring. Other details were not immediately available.

'Stomach-turning' pictures

Detective Superintendent John Stewardson, who led the operation, said children had been abused on a massive scale to produce material to feed the international ring.

"The content would turn the stomach of any right-minded person. It's really disgusting," he said.

Police said they would now attempt to trace some of the children in the pictures.

The pornographic ring originated in the United States, but the investigation began earlier this year when Sussex police in southeast England, acting on a tip from the U.S. Customs Service, discovered pedophiles downloading child pornography from the Internet, authorities said.

Charges will differ from country to country according to their different judicial systems. But charges could range from possession of pornographic material to the more serious offense of sexual abuse of children.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

[News by region] [News by topic]

Created: >September 2, 1998
Last modified: September 10, 1998

CSIS Commercial Sex Information Service
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710