Gardai target child-porn ring
Twelve Irish-based suspects investigated over global paedophile ‘community’
Gardai are investigating up to a dozen Irish-based suspects linked to what has been described as the world's largest paedophile ring.
Detectives have launched several investigations after receiving information from Europol about Irish users of a controversial Dutch website.
Paedophiles around the world used the now defunct online forum – boylover.net – to make contacts before using emails to exchange child abuse material.
At its height, the website had 70,000 members.
Garda sources said detectives have been supplied with the IP addresses of around 12 Irishbased users of the site.
IP addresses are unique numerical labels that can be used to identify an individual computer.
Over the past few months, officers have been working to establish the identities of the users of those computers.
So far there have been no arrests. However, a number of computers have been seized and inquiries are ongoing.
The latest investigation comes nine years after Operation Amethyst, the last largescale inquiry into the use of child pornography in Ireland.
That operation targeted 130 individuals and led to a number of high-profile convictions, including that of celebrity chef Tim Allen.
The current investigations are being co-ordinated by the Garda's Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit, which is attached to the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
The information supplied to Irish detectives came from a major international investigation, codenamed Operation Rescue, which has been ongoing for the past three years.
Europol disclosed details of the inquiry at a press conference in The Hague yesterday.
Around 670 suspects have been identified and more than 180 people have been arrested so far in countries around the world, with some 230 children also identified and rescued.
Some 121 of those arrested were detained in the UK, where the investigation originated.
Police forces in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Greece, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Spain and the US are now also involved in the inquiry.
Detectives from the UK's Child Protection Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) identified 1,200 Britons who used the site and pursued 240 high-risk suspects who had family, professional or other close links to children.
The 121 UK arrests, including one woman, led to 33 convictions in Britain and, police say, protected 60 children in the country from further abuse.
Kelvin Lay, the senior investigating officer at CEOP, said more raids were on the way.
British paedophiles convicted as part of the operation include John McMurdo, a 36- year-old scoutmaster from Plymouth who had amassed nearly 2,000 child abuse images.
Lee Palmer, a 21-year-old from Cheshire, was also convicted after being caught using the site.
He was sentenced to six years after he admitted abusing two boys, aged nine and two, and storing more than 60,000 indecent images of children on his computer.
The website is alleged to have been run by Emir Ish-Hurwitz, a 37-year-old Dutchman who is said to have been helped by 10 other suspects.
The suspected paedophiles used the site to “share their interest in young boys”, including discussion forums on sexual abuse of babies.
After “sussing each other out” they would move to secure email channels, where child pornography was stored or they would arrange offline meetings to abuse children.
One Spanish suspect who used the site worked in summer camps and is believed to have abused more than 100 children.