Child porn gang face jail
LONDON, England -- A British court is preparing to sentence seven men involved in what is believed to have been the world's biggest Internet paedophile ring.
The British men each face a maximum of three years' imprisonment after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute indecent images of children.
The men, all members of the Wonderland Club -- an international ring of 180 paedophiles -- have admitted swapping thousands of photos of children and even babies.
They were among 107 people arrested in a global police operation spread across Britain, the United States, a series of European countries and Australia.
About 750,000 pictures were seized by police, as well as a library of 1,800 computerised videos depicting children suffering sexual abuse.
David Perry QC, prosecuting, told Kingston Crown Court, south-west of London, on Monday: "It was a vast Internet lending library in which its members swapped paedophiliac photographs.
"The indecent material depicted children involved in sexual acts with adults and also with other children.
"All of the children involved were under the age of 16 and in one case the child was only three months. In many cases the children were aged two or three years and the vast majority were under 10."
More than 1,263 children were featured, but so far only 17 had been identified -- six in the UK, seven in the United States, one in Portugal, one in Chile and one in Argentina.
Members carefully screened
An album of victims had been created and posted on Interpol's Web site so police forces from around the world could attempt to locate them.
The court heard how the defendants, using nicknames, would trade pictures through the Wonderland Club, often using encryption software that made it difficult for police to access pictures.
Wonderland prided itself on containing "the cream of paedophiles" and new members were carefully screened.
British police became aware of Wonderland after detectives in the United States investigating a paedophile network found a connection with three Britons.
Detective Alex Wood, who headed the British inquiry, said: "Wonderland was a club set up by paedophiles worldwide and its chairman was Harry Mudd, an American who has since been brought to justice.
"The two main rules were that each member had to have at least 10,000 pictures of pre-teen kids and had to agree to exchange those images with other members."
Eight men in Britain were charged with conspiring to distribute pornographic images over the Internet. One killed himself after he was arrested and the others admitted the charges and were remanded in custody before Tuesday's sentencing at Kingston Crown Court, south-west of London.
The men were arrested during Operation Cathedral, coordinated by the National Crime Squad, and part of numerous simultaneous raids worldwide on September 2, 1998.
Under present UK law they face a maximum term of three years and could be free within 18 months.
A Bill going through parliament would increase the maximum sentence to 10 years.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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