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Worldwide Web Of Sex Fiends

IT all began eight months ago in the French city of Lyon - the headquarters of Interpol.
United States investigators revealed to stunned Australian Federal Police the fruits of their investigation into a lucrative Internet child pornography racket run from the former Soviet republic of Belarus.
They were presented with computer discs with details of the Internet child pornography obsessions of up to 500 Australians.
The previous month, US Attorney- General John Ashcroft had revealed the existence of Operation Falcon and the indictment of pornography website company Regpay, a company operating from Belarus, and US firm, Connections USA.
Regpay processed subscriptions for third-party Internet websites, While Connections USA provided Regpay with credit card processing services for those subscriptions.
Just how much it cost to access this material has not been revealed, although it could have been as little as a few dollars a visit.
"Regpay allegedly processed nearly $4.1 million in subscription fees by persons seeking pornography - much of it being child pornography," Mr Ashcrort said.
It is now clear a significant number of Australians were paying tor access to child pornography websites hosted out of Belarus and the beneficiaries were Russian organised crime groups.
US authorities believe those arrested so far are just "the tip of the iceberg" in the worldwide sting.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said, based on the agency's experience, hundreds - maybe thousands - more child pornography fiends could be arrested in Australia.
Australia's Operation Auxin was based on information uncovered by agents which found 100,000 credit card details when investigators raided the Regpay empire last year.
About three-quarters of those originated in the US, but 25,000 came from other nations, including Australia. About 900 people have been arrested in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain and France, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman, Jamie Zuieback said. "They were doctors, teachers, counsellors, coaches, members of the clergy and police officers," Ms Zuieback said.
"The investigation continues and we continue to make arrests each and every day.
"It has been satisfying that we have been able to identify and apprehend these individuals but, at the same time, it's just the tip of the iceberg."
Much remains to be revealed about just how the investigators" inquiry came together.
At the Australian end, the operation was led by the Canberra-based Australian High Tech Crime Centre within the AFP.
Officers liaised with state and territory police forces who conducted raids, seized computers and interviewed and charged suspects.
High Tech Crime Centre chief, Agent Mike Phelan, said it was not yet known whether any Australian- produced material featured on the Belarus websites.
The array of charges show that those implicated did more than just hoard and view offensive images.
Some have been charged with rape and sexual assault, while one man has been charged with child sex tourism.

Adelaide Advertiser (2-10-2004)

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