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Canada police announce hundreds of arrests in worldwide child porn investigation

A Canadian-led investigation into a child pornography website has resulted in the arrest of 348 people around the world, Toronto police have said. The case has also led to the rescue of 386 abused children.

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Toronto police said Thursday that 348 people had been arrested around the world as part of the three-year pornography investigation. At least 386 sexually abused children had also been rescued globally.

The Project Spade operation involved some 30 police forces from Australia, Spain, Ireland, Greece, South Africa, Hong Kong, Mexico, Norway and the United States, as well as the United States Postal Service, police said.

Of the total arrests announced, 108 were in Canada, 76 in the United States and 65 in Australia.

Canadian Police Service Chief William Blair told a press conference the investigation got underway in 2010 after undercover officers made contact with a Toronto man suspected of running a company which had distributed child pornography videos since 2005.

The 42-year-old owner was charged with operating the website Azovfilms.com, which was found to have sold and distributed child pornography. Police said the man "paid various people to film children for the purpose of creating movies for sale on his website." They were then distributed to international customers.

Worldwide web of child sex abusers

According to Inspector Joanna Beaven-Desjardins, head of Toronto's Sex Crimes Unit, the US Postal Investigation Service assisted in combing through the company's database to track down both the producers and the consumers of the videos. School teachers, doctors and actors were among those subsequently arrested.

"Of concern to the investigators was the number of people [arrested] who have close contact with children. The arrests included 40 school teachers, nine doctors and nurses, 32 people who volunteered with children, six law enforcement personnel, nine pastors or priests, and three foster parents," Beaven-Desjardins said.

The investigation "is still ongoing, there will be further arrests and I imagine there will be more children that will be saved because of it," she added.

ccp/ch (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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