Nine Canadians have been arrested as part of an ongoing international child abuse and internet child pornography investigation, the RCMP said on Tuesday, adding that they are looking at another 50 cases.

The probe, code-named "Operation Koala," involved videos of children being abused that were filmed mainly in a Ukraine studio and purchased by customers around the world, including Canada, said RCMP Supt. Earla-Kim McColl, head of the National Child Exploitation Co-ordination Centre, at a news conference in Ottawa Tuesday.

"They sought it out, they previewed the samples, they paid in advance and they waited for a password to download the videos," said McColl, who was accompanied by representatives from other law enforcement agencies including Europe's Europol, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Vancouver Police and the Winnipeg Police Service.

More than 92 people have been arrested in Europe as part of the investigation.

The Canadian suspects include a man in Edmonton, a 40-year-old man in Victoria and, most recently, a man in the Greater Toronto Area who was arrested two weeks ago and described in the media as a former Scout leader, police said.

The Victoria-area man was arrested last fall in connection with Operation Koala and later released, police said. He faces four charges of possession of child pornography, access to child pornography, possession of a firearm without a certificate and careless storage of a firearm, said Victoria police Const. Derek Tolmie.

In Winnipeg, Const. Jacqueline Chaput said two search warrants were executed in that city, but no charges had been laid.

"There was evidence seized at the residences as a result of the investigation, however the investigators have to go through all that evidence," Chaput said.

Two Montreal men were also arrested last fall during the course of the investigation.

A 40-year old and a 50-year old man were arrested in late November and each charged with two counts of child pornography.

They've both been released and are waiting for a court date to be set. Montreal police won't release their names because of fears the suspects will be harassed.

Neither one works with children, the force's sexual assault squad said.

While there is no evidence of any Canadian children involved in the videos, one Canadian suspect was said to have mused about involving his own daughters.

About 50 cases in Canada are still actively under investigation and more suspects will be contacted soon by local police, McColl said. Investigators are still working to track some of Canada's 98 individual e-mail accounts to their owners.

The investigation began when a video depicting the rape of two young girls was found on July 12, 2006. That eventually led to the arrest of an Italian man, Sergio Marzola, who allegedly produced more than 150 child abuse and pornography videos — including some that could be custom-filmed for a price — that he sold via the internet.

Customers could even visit the studio to watch or participate in the abuse live, McColl said.

In February 2007, Europol gave the RCMP a list of 600 e-mails that were traced to 100 individual e-mail accounts.

'Child pornography is not benign'

"Analysis of thousands of embedded images from interested Canadians indicated a desire not only to purchase the videos but even exploit their own children," McColl said.

RCMP spent hundreds of hours validating the images, preparing evidence packages and working with internet service providers to obtain information about their clients, she added.

Eighteen Canadian law enforcement agencies, seven provinces and 40 municipalities became involved in the investigation.

McColl emphasized that making child pornography is a serious crime. She added that 80 per cent of child pornography images show the penetration of pre-pubescent children including babies and 20 per cent depict torture or other violence.

"The internet is a virtual world but the crimes and the children are real," she said. "Possessing child pornography is an incentive to production, and all production necessitates the use, exploitation and abuse of a child. The nature of child pornography is not benign."

She urged the public to get involved and watch for signs among those they know, such as secretive internet use and excessive storage devices.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day commended the investigation in a statement issued Tuesday, pointing out that the last federal budget added $6 million to help protect kids from online predators and stop human trafficking.

"Child sexual abuse of any kind is a horrifying crime," said Day.

With files from the Canadian Press