Almost 200 suspects have already been arrested in a large-scale international child pornography ring centred in the Netherlands.
Speaking from the Hague, Europol Director Rob Wainwright, together with law enforcement representatives from five countries, announced the round-up of the internet ring on Wednesday.
In the largest ever operation of its kind, police in 30 countries have arrested 184 suspects and identified 486 others. Mr Wainwright says more will follow in short order.
Peter Davies, Director of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, says arrests were being made yesterday and today in the UK and more are planned for tomorrow. Meanwhile, five arrests have been made in the United States and 17 in Spain. The investigation, called Operation Rescue, started three years ago.
An important break in the case came when Dutch authorities arrested Amir Ish-Hurwitz, the brains behind the internet forum Boylover.net, the centre of the ring. At its peak, the forum had more than 70,000 members around the world. No child pornography was distributed on the forum itself, rather, members used the forum to facilitate individual exchanges of photos or videos online. Boylover.net was run from Amir Ish-Hurwitz's home in the Province of North Holland.
The 37-year-old Israeli-born Dutch citizen was arrested in 2009 for possession of child pornography and has since cooperated fully with investigators. Police have been able to trace 71,000 IP addresses, in 109 countries, from his computer. On Tuesday, Amir Ish-Hurwitz pleaded guilty in a Haarlem court to possession of child pornography, and to sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy in the Brazilian city of Sao Paolo. He faces up to three and a half years in prison.
Not for the money
Europol has released some of the exchanges between members of the forum. One such text reads, “There is nothing more sexy than a boy in diapers and I thought I was the only one who had this thought.” Most of those arrested so far are suspected of child sex abuse, not the lesser offence of possessing child pornography.
Europol’s Wainwright says one unusual aspect of this internet ring, and child pornography offences in general, is that very little money changes hands. “Money is clearly not the motivating factor, unlike most other forms of organised crime.”
No connection to daycare abuser
The internet ring centered around Boylover.net has no connection to the Amsterdam child pornography case now pending. The Netherlands was shocked in December when Robert Mikelsons, an immigrant from Latvia, was arrested and confessed to sexually abusing dozens of children at two daycare centres where he worked, and while he was babysitting. Robert Mikelsons’ trail begins on Thursday.