2,360 Suspects In Global Child Porn Bust

CHILD PORNOGRAPHY Man at computer with dithered image of person on screen, with handcuffs AP

Austrian authorities said Wednesday they have busted a major international child pornography ring involving more than 2,360 suspects from 77 countries 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."

"Girls could be seen being raped, and you could also hear screams," said Harald Gremel, an Austrian police expert on Internet crime who headed the investigation.

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 the investigation began in 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 24 hours, 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.

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

Underscoring how the suspects ranged widely in age from students to retirees, he said that in Austria, the youngest person implicated was 17 and the oldest was 69.

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

He said investigators believed the videos — which included images of children up to age 14 — were made in Eastern Europe and uploaded to the site from somewhere in Britain.
  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the CBSNews.com foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.

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