RCMP to probe Canadian IPs in global child-porn network

The RCMP are investigating after Austrian authorities uncovering a global child pornography network said they handed at least 103 Canadian IP computer addresses to the Mounties.

Austrian authorities who uncovered aglobalchild pornography network said Wednesday they havehanded over at least 103 Canadian IP computer addresses to the RCMP.

But the Mounties say they've only received 19 potential Canadian addresses so far, andit's not clear yet whether any crime was committed in Canada.

The international child pornography network involved more than 2,360 suspects from 77 countries, among them Canadians, Col. Gerald Hesztera, of the Austrian Bureau of Criminal Investigation, told CBC News from Vienna.

"We gave to the Canadian authorities information about 103 IP computer addresses," he said, adding the bust was "the largest case in Austria, and I'm sure one of the biggest cases also in the world."

While that may mean 103 unique IP (internet protocol) computer addresses were used to access the illegal material, it does not necessarily denote the number of Canadian suspects.

RCMP Sgt. Martin Blaistold CBC Newsthe next step isfor the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centretoestablish the exact location of the computers through internet service providers.

"If these can be obtained, the file will be investigated and the police of jurisdiction in Canada will be contactedfor followup,"Blais said Wednesday.

The FBI is now following up on 607 leads —the bulk of the online suspects linked to the conspiracy are believed to be in the U.S. —and German authorities are pursuing 466 names. France is also investigating 114 people allegedly active on the website.

Austrians charge 23

Hesztera told the CBC "the case is finished" in Austria and that 23 suspects face charges of possession of child pornography. The suspects ranged from a 17-year-old student to a 69-year-old retiree, as well as some government employees.

More than a dozen of them confessed and the suspects were awaiting court verdicts Wednesday, Hesztera said.

In all, Austrian police seized:

  • 213 video cassettes
  • 1,232DVDs
  • 1,428 diskettes
  • 31 desktop computers
  • Seven laptop computers
  • 23 hard disks and other storage devices

The Austrian Bureau of Criminal Investigation described the content on the website as displaying "the worst kind of child sexual abuse."

It is believed the movies, which included images of infantsand children up to the age of 14, were filmed somewhere in eastern Europe and then uploaded to awebsite in Russia or somewhere in Britain.

Harald Gremel, who headed the Austrian unit of theinvestigation, said police recorded more than 8,000 visits or "hits" to the Austrian server from 2,361 computer IP addresses within a single 24-hour period. Visitors from 77 countries, ranging from Iceland to South Africa, each paid $89 US to access the illicit material.

"Of course, the scope of the hits, more than 8,000 in one day in one home page, it's amazing, it's shocking," Hesztera told the CBC.

Arrests 'unprecedented'

Federal police in Austria heralded the bust as "a strike against child pornography unprecedented in Austrian criminal history."

The international scope of the investigation shows the importance of police agencies around the world working together, said Toronto police Det. Sgt. Kim Scanlan.

"It is borderless," Scanlan told CBC News Wednesday. "We're all concerned about the safety of our children."

Scanlan said Toronto police had not received any information yet from their Austrian counterparts or the Mounties.

With files from the Associated Press