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The BBC's Andrew North
"US investigators have hailed the joint operation as an example"
 real 56k

The BBC's Nick Bryant
"Blue Orchid was one of the most pernicious of child porn websites"
 real 28k

Monday, 26 March, 2001, 22:49 GMT 23:49 UK
International child porn ring smashed
internet
More arrests of Blue Orchid members are expected
United States customs officials say they have helped Moscow police to dismantle a child pornography ring operating over the internet.

The officials said four Americans and five Russians were arrested after a lengthy joint investigation.


We have to send a message: those who are using the internet in this way cannot hide

Acting US customs commissioner
They are being charged with producing and distributing videos through a website in which Russian boys as young as eight years old are shown being sexually abused.

The operation, known as Blue Orchid after the website, is continuing and more arrests are expected.

Investigations are also under way in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Around 100,000 websites worldwide are thought to be involved in some way with child pornography, according to customs service estimates.

Under cover

The Blue Orchid site sold several hundred videos at $200-$300 each to at least 80 customers worldwide during its operation from March to December last year.

US acting customs commissioner Charles Winwood
Charles Winwood: No borders for mutual interest in protecting children
Posing as customers, the US officials helped their Moscow counterparts pursue the trail back to the pornographers.

Russian police made the first arrests in December, detaining two men who allegedly operated the website.

This led investigators to several Americans who allegedly imported the club's videos.

A US customs official said the child porn business had made extensive use of the internet but that those involved would not be able to hide from the authorities.

"Operation Blue Orchid demonstrates that there really are no borders when it comes to our mutual interest in protecting children," acting commissioner Charles Winwood said.

"Regrettably, it also demonstrates that there really are no borders when it comes to using the internet to exploit children."

Officials said co-operation had not been affected by both sides' expulsion of diplomats last week. The co-operative effort between US and Russia began early last year.

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See also:

23 May 00 | UK
Netting paedophiles online
27 Jan 00 | World
New weapon against child porn
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