Page last updated at 11:50 GMT, Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Child abuse image trade targeted

Money and keyboard, Eyewire
The coalition aims to stop those profiting from selling images of abuse

Profits made by peddlers of child sex abuse images are being targeted by a pan-European alliance.

The European Financial Coalition brings together payment firms, law enforcement agencies and child protection groups to disrupt commerce in the images.

By tracking cash made by sites selling abuse images, investigators hope to stop the trade and find abusers.

Backers include Mastercard, Visa, Paypal and UK's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).

Funded by the European Commission, the coalition is intended to serve as a "stark warning" to those involved in the sale and distribution of child sex images.

"It is a reality that the rapid growth of the internet has opened up a market for images of child abuse," said EC vice president Jacques Barrot in a statement.

"The European Financial Coalition (EFC) will help identify and protect victims of this horrific crime by following the money trail that takes the police to the offender," he said.

By bringing together technology firms, payment providers and law enforcement agencies the EFC hopes to do a better job of finding out how money paid for images flows across electronic payment systems.

Advisory members to the EFC include the NGO Missing Children Europe, Allen and Overy, and ICMEC - the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.

Jim Gamble, head of the UK's CEOP, said hard work by police and anti-child sex abuse groups was slowly pushing organised crime out of the trade in images.

The EFC, he said, would help tackle those who persist in profiting from images of child abuse by running subscription services and newsgroups.

"These are organised by networked paedophiles and driven by a deviant sexual interest in children, rather than by organised crime enterprises for profit," he said.

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