For the first time in Germany, a pedophile network distributing pictures on mobile phones has been busted as tens of thousands of telephones, computers and data carriers were seized in 465 raids across the country.
In this case, the images were digital
For the first time, police found mobile phones being used to distribute pictures via MMS multimedia message technology on a large scale.
"This is not the biggest case in Germany's history," the prosecution said, "but it has an extraordinary dimension"
The search, codenamed "Operation Susi", started after the mobile phone of a 33-year-old man was found to contain the telephone numbers of 465 men and women with whom he had exchanged pornographic images of children.
Around 1000 police were involved in the nationwide search Tuesday and Wednesday, seizing telephones, computers, videos and storage devices such as hard drives, USB sticks and CDs.
No arrests so far
To date, nobody has been arrested in connection with the raids. Investigations have been hampered by the short time legally available for the searches to be carried out, and the high number of suspects.
The seized data has to be investigated before anyone can be put behind bars
Close to 500 searches had to be completed within four months. The data gathered has to be investigated in detail, before charges can be brought against any suspects.
Most people are being investigated for the possession or procuration of child pornography, with sentences of up to two years.
"We're also looking for evidence of actual abuse, which would fall into a whole new league," the prosecution added.