Thursday, October 03, 2002

Shocked Poland faces up to child porn shame
October 03 2002
From: IOL

Warsaw - Police in Poland have cracked two alleged pedophile networks operating in the country, one of which reportedly has extensive international links.

In a report which dropped a bombshell in Poland this week, the Wprost weekly revealed police were closing in on what is allegedly one of the largest pedophile rings in Europe dealing in child pornography.

The group is said to have contacts throughout Europe and traded in illegal child pornography from as far away as India.

Wprost reported three arrests across Poland in the case so far, with a lawyer, a teacher and a university student now in custody.

Police confirmed the investigation, but have refused to provide details pending further arrests.

Wprost alleges the gang used the Internet to deliver child porn to clients across Europe, with at least one client reported to be from Belgium, a country deeply shaken by a rash of pedophile activity over the last decade.

The Polish gang also had dozens of organisers and several thousand clients in Poland alone, the magazine said.

It even went to the extreme of planting webcams in pre-school changing rooms for so-called "live" broadcasts and bought young girls from their parents, Wprost reported.

Prominent public figures including politicians, artists, lawyers, journalists and television personalities were clients of the ring, the weekly said, predicting dozens more arrests in the case both in Poland and throughout Europe.

Meanwhile in a separate case, four suspected pedophiles were arrested this week following a year-long investigation into an alleged gang operating in the southern Polish coal basin of Katowice.

Police allege the four men, aged 35-70, sexually abused at least six boys aged 10-14. Among the suspects are a retired teacher, a miner and two jobless men. All were said to use Katowice's central railway station to contact the boys.

All of the youngsters came from broken homes and frequented the station as an escape or to earn money, police said. The four suspects allegedly invited the boys to local hotels or private flats in exchange for food and money.

Nine suspects have been arrested in Katowice since last December. All face a maximum of 10 years in prison. In September police also arrested a loosely-knit group of five men soliciting sexual services from underage boys in Warsaw's central train station.

Up to 14 percent, or several hundred thousand Polish children under the age of 15 have experienced some form of abuse, according to Zbigniew Lew Starowicz, a leading Polish psychologist.

Police expose an average 1 500 cases of pedophilia in Poland each year, official statistics say, but criminologists contend the majority go unreported with estimates pointing to up to half a million cases of child sex abuse in Poland each year.

Police records show that documented cases of child pornography are also on the increase with 20 cases having been detected this year and over 12 in 2001. Some 700 alleged pedophiles have been arrested in Poland so far this year. - Sapa-DPA