Austrian authorities say they've uncovered global child porn ring


Wednesday, February 7th 2007, 6:00 am
By: News On 6


VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ Austrian authorities said Wednesday they have uncovered a major international child pornography ring involving more than 2,360 suspects from 77 countries, including hundreds in the United States, who paid to view videos depicting young children being sexually abused.

Federal police called the case ``a strike against child pornography unprecedented in Austrian criminal history.''

Interior Minister Guenther Platter said the FBI was investigating about 600 of the suspects in the United States. German authorities were following leads on another 400 people, France was looking into about 100 others, and at least 23 suspects were Austrians, he said.

Platter said videos downloaded from the Internet and seized by Austria's Federal Criminal Investigations Bureau included images that showed ``the worst kind of child sexual abuse.''

Although officials initially said the children ranged in ages from ``0 to 14,'' Harald Gremel, an Austrian police expert on Internet crime who headed the investigation, later said no infants were seen in the videos.

No suspects were yet in custody, but Austrian authorities said they were sharing their information with law enforcement in other countries in hopes that suspects could be investigated and charged.

Gremel said it began last July when a man working for a Vienna-based Internet file hosting service approached authorities at the Interior Ministry to say he noticed suspicious material.

Within a 24-hour period, investigators recorded more than 8,000 hits from 2,361 computer I.P. addresses in 77 countries ranging from Algeria to South Africa, Gremel told reporters.

The videos were posted on an unidentified Russian Web site, and users had to pay $89 to access the material, Gremel said.

He said investigators believed the videos, which included images of girls and boys up to age 14, were made in Eastern Europe and uploaded to the site from somewhere in Britain.

Germany had the largest single number of suspects in Europe, Gremel said.