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International paedophile ring 'the biggest of its kind', say police

POLICE have arrested 31 Australians after they cracked the world's largest internet paedophile ring, which was spread across more than a dozen countries.
In total, 670 suspects were identified and 184 arrests made, allowing authorities to identify and assist 230 child victims worldwide.
It was "the biggest case of its kind", Europol said today.
Investigators identified a Netherlands-based online forum, .net, that promoted sex between adults and young boys.
The three-year multi-national police operation was driven by the Australian Federal Police and Britains' Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.
"Six-hundred-and-seventy suspects have been identified, 184 arrests have already been made and 230 children, the victims of these terrible crimes, have been identified and rescued from further harm,"
director Rob Wainwright told journalists.
"We expect these numbers to rise further," he said, adding: "This is already the biggest case of its kind we have ever seen."
The Netherlands internet server had almost 70,000 members worldwide at its height, officials said.
The server involved had since been taken down and its operator appeared in a Dutch court on Tuesday.
AFP spokesman Grant Edwards said the Australians arrested spanned several generations and included school teachers, scout leaders and shop assistants.
The youngest charged in Australia was 19 and the oldest was 84, he said.
"The 84-year-old was living in Thailand and was charged with contact sex offences," Mr Edwards said.
He said four Australians held high positions in the illegal network.
"They were directors, they were either administrators and security advisers," he said.
Four Australian children, of 230 globally, were abused by the network and have been placed in the care of support services.
"The website attempted to operate as a discussion-only forum where people could share their sexual interest in young boys without committing any specific offences and operate below the radar," Peter Davies of Britain's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre told the press conference.
"Many members, however, having made contact on the site, moved on to more private channels such as email to exchange and share illegal images and films of children being abused."
According to a Europol statement, computers seized from those arrested have yielded "huge quantities of child abuse images and videos".
Wainwright said this was "one of the most successful international police operations in recent years, in what is probably the largest online paedophile network in the world."
The oldest of the suspects arrested over the past three years was 84 and the group included at least one woman.
One suspect, arrested in Spain, worked with children at summer camps and is believed to have abused more than 100 in five years.
Most of the suspects abused children "in their closest environment, in their families or friends or neighbourhood," said Cesar Lorenzana of Spain's Guardia Civil.
According to Davies, the suspects did not share a specific profile.
"There is no particular rule about the age, there is no particular rule about the walk of life they are in.
There is no particular profile of someone who is a threat to children in this way," he said.
Wainwright said investigators had a breakthrough when Europol experts cracked the Dutch-based server's sophisticated security features in 2010 to uncover "this huge network".
Europol then issued more than 4200 intelligence reports about the activities of the network to more than 30 countries, mostly in Europe, enabling them to track down offenders and their victims.
"Our work continues and we will not rest until all of the offenders have been identified," said Wainwright, adding the number of victims was also expected to rise "maybe even significantly".
Countries involved in the probe have included Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Greece, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Spain, and the US.

AFP (17-3-2011)
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/international-paedophile-ring-the-biggest-of-its-kind-say-police/story-e6frg6nf-1226022972302

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WA accountant jailed for role in worldwide pedophile network

A PERTH man believed to be a high ranking member of an international child pornography network busted by police is already serving jail time for his crime.
Ralph Ian Assheton, 49, an accountant from the Perth suburb of Wembley Downs was arrested on December 9, 2009.
He pleaded guilty last year in the Perth District Court to using the internet to access child pornography and was jailed for two-and-a-half years.
An Australian Federal Police (AFP) spokeswoman confirmed Assheton was a member of the international child porn network.
Police say details of the investigation have been kept secret until now for operational reasons.
Of the 31 Australians arrested, 15 are from Victoria, eight from NSW and one each from Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.
Another four Australians have been arrested but the AFP says they cannot name which states they are from for operational reasons.
"We will release the details of those ones eventually,"' a spokeswoman told AAP on Wednesday.
School teachers and scout leaders are among the Australians arrested.
A three-year operation by the AFP and the UK's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre has identified 670 suspects worldwide.
They were part of a Netherlands-based online forum promoting sex between boys and adults which, at its height, had 70,000 members.
Police have made 184 arrests, and rescued 230 children, including four Australians. More arrests are expected, including in Australia, as investigations continue.
It was "the biggest case of its kind", Europol said today.
Investigators identified a Netherlands-based online forum,....net, that promoted sex between adults and young boys.
The three-year multi-national police operation was driven by the Australian Federal Police and Britains' Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.
"Six-hundred-and-seventy suspects have been identified, 184 arrests have already been made and 230 children, the victims of these terrible crimes, have been identified and rescued from further harm," director Rob Wainwright told journalists.
"We expect these numbers to rise further," he said, adding: "This is already the biggest case of its kind we have ever seen."
The Netherlands internet server had almost 70,000 members worldwide at its height, officials said.
The server involved had since been taken down and its operator appeared in a Dutch court on Tuesday.
AFP spokesman Grant Edwards said the Australians arrested spanned several generations and included school teachers, scout leaders and shop assistants.
The youngest charged in Australia was 19 and the oldest was 84, he said.
"The 84-year-old was living in Thailand and was charged with contact sex offences," Mr Edwards said.
He said four Australians held high positions in the illegal network.
"They were directors, they were either administrators and security advisers," he said.
Four Australian children, of 230 globally, were abused by the network and have been placed in the care of support services.
"The website attempted to operate as a discussion-only forum where people could share their sexual interest in young boys without committing any specific offences and operate below the radar," Peter Davies of Britain's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre told the press conference.
"Many members, however, having made contact on the site, moved on to more private channels such as email to exchange and share illegal images and films of children being abused."
According to a Europol statement, computers seized from those arrested have yielded "huge quantities of child abuse images and videos".
Wainwright said this was "one of the most successful international police operations in recent years, in what is probably the largest online paedophile network in the world."
The oldest of the suspects arrested over the past three years was 84 and the group included at least one woman.
One suspect, arrested in Spain, worked with children at summer camps and is believed to have abused more than 100 in five years.
Most of the suspects abused children "in their closest environment, in their families or friends or neighbourhood," said Cesar Lorenzana of Spain's Guardia Civil.
According to Davies, the suspects did not share a specific profile.
"There is no particular rule about the age, there is no particular rule about the walk of life they are in. There is no particular profile of someone who is a threat to children in this way," he said.
Wainwright said investigators had a breakthrough when Europol experts cracked the Dutch-based server's sophisticated security features in 2010 to uncover "this huge network".
Europol then issued more than 4200 intelligence reports about the activities of the network to more than 30 countries, mostly in Europe, enabling them to track down offenders and their victims.
"Our work continues and we will not rest until all of the offenders have been identified," said Wainwright, adding the number of victims was also expected to rise "maybe even significantly".
Countries involved in the probe have included Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Greece, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Spain, and the US.

AFP (17-3-2011)
http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/international-paedophile-ring-the-biggest-of-its-kind-say-police/story-e6frg12c-1226022984378

Child porn boss could walk in a year

The Australian head of an international online paedophile network could walk free from jail in a year despite his history of child sex crimes and warnings that he had a high risk of reoffending.
Accountant Ralph Ian Assheton, 48, was yesterday jailed for 2 years for accessing 20,997 images and 1023 movies of child porn,
including graphic pictures and videos of naked youngsters and children as young as four being raped by men.
He was charged after a raid on his Wembley Downs home in November and pleaded guilty this year to one count of using a carriage service to access child pornography.
Australian Federal Police found Assheton was linked to an international online paedophile network of more than 56,000 members, including people in Britain, Italy, Canada, Germany, Brazil and the Netherlands.
Membership was strictly limited and determined by a hierarchy, with potential members required to request membership and then contribute to the website, which was described in court as being like a blog.
It is understood some network members believe there is nothing wrong with having a sexual relationship with a child and that the practice will one day be accepted around the world.
Assheton was described as the highest ranking Australian and one of the highest ranking members.
The court was told he made more than 11,000 posts early in the AFP investigation.
In sentencing, Judge Bruce Goetze said the network encouraged the spread of paedophilia.
He said accessing child pornography was not a victimless crime because the children involved had been abused and exploited.
"This problem is an international problem. That is especially so since the advent of the internet and the way in which computers can download and store material," Judge Goetze said. "It is something which is difficult to detect and as long as there are people around like you who receive that information, there is a ready market for the material and children will continue to be exploited."

A self-confessed paedophile, Assheton has previously been jailed for child pornography and child sex tourism offences.
In 2002, he was sentenced to seven years jail for importing child porn and indecent dealing offences.
These offences involved Assheton filming two boys, aged 11 and nine, performing sexual acts and his abuse of the boys during a holiday in Bali.
Yesterday, the court was told Assheton started using child sex websites about a year after his release from jail and that he spent four hours a day downloading child pornography.
The court was told he had sought help to stop searching for child porn and planned to move to Adelaide when he was freed.

The West Australian (26-6-2010)
Luke Eliot
http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/mp/7465978/child-porn-boss-could-walk-in-a-year/





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