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Germany

Top Cop: New Laws Needed to Fight Organized Crime, Child Porn

In its annual review on serious and organized crime in Germany, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) announced that new laws were needed to combat child pornography and organized crime.

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The mafia's bloody business continues in Germany but the pressure is on

The BKA's annual report on organized crime, issued on Wednesday, Aug. 27, said criminals were increasingly using legitimate businesses to cover up their illegal activities and that new laws were needed to combat the booming online child pornography market.

Joerg Ziercke, the head of the BKA, said organized crime gangs were increasingly infiltrating legal industries to launder profits from the illegal drug trade and using businesses as front for criminal enterprises. The report showed that an estimated 481 million euros ($708 million) of ill-gotten gains were made behind the facade of legitimacy in Germany in 2007.

While the drug industry in Germany continues to be the most lucrative, the trade in stolen cars is on the wane.

However, while the vehicles themselves are proving to be less popular with car thieves, the latest trend of having on-board navigation systems has given them a new, more easily concealed product: GPS systems. The number of satellite positioning systems stolen in 2004 was only 10,637. Last year, 54,232 devices were swiped.

"Navigation equipment is the product of the moment", Ziercke told reporters at the presentation of the report.

Ziercke admitted that white collar crime is another area enjoying a boom. More and more people are indulging in tax fraud despite the publicity afforded the trend this year when a number of large businesses were caught and tax havens came under investigation by German prosecutors.

Organized crime suspects going before courts

The fight against organized crime groups continued unabated in 2007. The BKA brought 602 cases before the courts in 2007, with 10,356 suspects investigated by the office. The BKA report stated that 42 percent of these were Germans.

Mafiamorde in Duisburg - Blumen vor dem Lokal

The Duisburg murders led to increased mafia investigations

Since 1998, Ziercke said, 368 cases involving 4000 suspects from Italian groups in Germany have been through the German legal system.

Since the high-profile murders in Duisburg last year, the rate of investigations into mafia dealings in Germany has risen and as a result of on-going cases, as many of 65 top bosses could be arrested, he stated.

On the topic of child pornography, Ziercke said that new laws were needed to allow authorities to block access to Web sites featuring child pornography in order to hobble a booming online trade.

Ziercke said the distribution of videos and photographs featuring juveniles in sexual situations rose 55 percent in Germany between 2006 and 2007, most of them on commercial Web sites.

New Internet regulations needed in Germany

He said other European countries had managed to stem the flow of such images with so-called access blocking of offending sites, adding that voluntary schemes with the Internet sector had been ineffective in Germany.

"I think we are only going to make headway with a legal requirement," he said. "Experts say it is technically possible to block access and there is no opposition from the European Union. So why do we have nothing in Germany?"

Currently authorities have to work with Internet providers when illegal content is discovered on a Web site. Ziercke said access blocking would allow police to take direct action.

Ring von Kinderschändern in Spanien zerschlagen Symbolbild Kinderpornografie

Child porn offenders have increased in the last year

Last year German authorities reported 11,357 child pornography offences, up from 7,318 the previous year. The number of cases on the Internet more than doubled in the same period, to 6,206 cases.

Ziercke said the trade produced millions of euros in revenue every month with "younger and younger" victims.

He said Norway, for instance, had had enormous success with access blocking, netting some 15,000 attempts to find child pornography online each day.

Other countries with access blocking laws on the books include Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Italy, Switzerland, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan, according to Ziercke.

In the United States, access providers participate on a voluntary basis, while the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Iceland, Poland, Australia and Japan are considering legal crackdowns, he said.

"I have the impression that we will soon have to justify why we are not taking the lead," Ziercke said.

Government says new regulations a case for the EU

Deutschland Verbrechen Kinderpornographie

Germany says the EU would have to act to pass new laws

A government spokesman said there were already legal mechanisms to take action against Web sites "on a case by case basis," adding that any question of new legislation would be better taken up by the European Union rather than Germany alone.

The German Internet Industry Association (eco) insisted the sector took the problem seriously and had been working for years with authorities to stamp out illicit images of minors and other banned content.

Eco president Harald Summa said it was more effective to continue the current practice, with an online complaint center collecting reports of offensive contact by Internet users and handing them over to authorities.

"We want to continue this effective cooperation," he said in a statement, reported by the AFP news agency.

Internet users who wanted to find child pornography would be able to get around "access blocking," Summa added.

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