Police Bust Major Online Pedophile Ring in Europe
At least 230 children, some as young as 7 years old, were rescued from sexual abuse, officials at the European police agency Europol said today. Europol Director Rob Wainwright said the child sex ring had 70,000 members and was "probably the largest online pedophile network in the world."
Although most of the 184 arrests were made in Europe, the three-year investigation has flagged 670 suspected pedophiles around the world, from Australia to Brazil to the United States, officials said in a press release today. Those alleged offenders, police said, will be investigated and brought to justice.
The ring was operating on the site boylover.net, a "discussion-only" forum based out of the Netherlands where people shared their interest in young boys. Authorities say members used the site to exchange videos and photos of children being abused.
Police said they arrested members accused of having direct physical contact with children, but warned others active on the site that there will be more arrests. Britain's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center lead the investigation, which aided authorities in 30 different countries in busting the ring.
One of the people arrested in England was a woman, officials said. Others included teachers, boy scout leaders and police officers.
Peter Davies, the UK police chief who heads the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center, said the same technology that allowed the alleged pedophiles to engage in illegal activities helped authorities bust the ring. "What we show today is that while these offenders felt anonymous in some way because they were using the internet to communicate, the technology was actually being used against them," he said in a press release today. "Everything they did online, everyone they talked to or anything they shared could and was tracked by following the digital footprint."