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Largest Internet Pedophile Ring Busted

March 16, 2011

International police led by a UK team report that they have shut down the largest Internet pedophile ring.

According to a BBC report, the ring had 70,000 followers at its peak, leading to 4,000 intelligence reports being sent to police across 30 countries.

There have been 670 suspects and 230 abused children identified as part of the operation.

Detectives told BBC that 184 people have been arrested, and 121 of them were in the U.K.

About 60 children have been protected in the U.K.

Operation Rescue was an investigation that took three-years to complete and was head up from the U.K.’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center (CEOP).

Investigators said at a news conference at The Hague in the Netherlands that the network hid behind a legal online forum that operated out of the country.

Along with the Netherlands and the U.K., suspects have been identified in Australia, Italy, Canada, New Zealand and Thailand.

Rob Wainwright, director of European police agency Europol, told BBC that the members of the network went into a private channel and then used its secret systems to share films and images of abused children.

However, child abuse investigators had already infiltrated the network and were posing as pedophiles to gather intelligence.

The 240 suspects include police officers, teachers and a karate teacher.

Peter Davies, head of CEOP, told BBC: “The scale and success of Operation Rescue has broken new ground.”

“Not only is it one of the largest operations of its kind to date – and the biggest operation we have led – it also demonstrates the impact of international law enforcement agencies working together with one single objective, to safeguard children and bring offenders to justice.”

“While these offenders felt anonymous in some way because they were using the Internet to communicate, the technology was actually being used against them.”

“Everything they did online, everyone they talked to or anything they shared could and was tracked by following the digital footprint.”

The initiative to bring the ring down began when CEOP and colleagues in the Australian Federal Police separately identified the site as a key online meeting place for abusers.

Operation Rescue then began deploying officers to infiltrate the site and to identify the members who were posing the most risk to children.

BBC reported that one of the early breakthroughs in the investigation was the arrest of four suspects in Thailand in 2008.

CEOP identified the owner of the site in March of the same year, along with the location of its servers.

The owner of the server is now co-operating with Dutch police.

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