by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
European police have uncovered a 70,000 member Internet pedophile ring based in the Netherlands which has led to the identification of 670 suspects and the rescue of 230 abused children in 30 countries.
Catholic Online is reporting that the bust, called “Operation Rescue,” was the result of a three-year investigation by the European policy agency, Europol. Suspects include teachers, police officers and scout leaders, such as one Spanish man who worked at a summer youth camp who is suspected of abusing nearly 100 children over a five-year period.
Europol director Rob Wainwright says the forum was “probably the largest online pedophile network in the world.”
According to Europol, the Web site operated from a server based in the Netherlands and, at its height, boasted up to 70,000 members worldwide.
“It attempted to operate as a ‘discussion-only’ forum where people could share their sexual interest in young boys without committing any specific offenses, thus operating ‘below the radar’ of police attention,” Europol said.
“Having made contact on the site, some members would move to more private channels, such as email, to exchange and share illegal images and films of children being abused. Computers seized from those arrested have harvested huge quantities of child abuse images and videos,” it added.
Cori Bassett, a public affairs officer for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told MSNBC that the bust has resulited in five arrests and four convictions thus far in the U.S.
“Arrests so far have been made in Georgia and Connecticut. ICE continues to pursue the leads provided by Europol,” she said.
Law enforcement authorities from 13 countries, including the United States, Australia, Canada, Italy, Spain and the U.K., were involved in the case.
“Europol subsequently issued over 4,000 intelligence reports to police authorities in over 30 countries in Europe and elsewhere, which has led to the arrests of suspects and the safeguarding of children,” Europol said.
Peter Davies, of the Britain’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center, said there would be more arrests as the investigations continue.
“Those who have been members of the site can expect a knock on the door in the very near future,” he said.
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