NEWS

Purveyors of online child pornography are stretching their tentacles further

A lawyer in Larissa, a student in Crete, a barman on Myconos, an academic in Thessaloniki as well as the caretaker of his department, a pensioner in the northern suburbs of Athens, a chief master-sergeant at the Defense Ministry, a foreign-language teacher in Yiannitsa, a photographer in Athens, a private sector employee on Rhodes and a pupil in Athens are among the many who have been arrested in recent years for distributing child pornography over the Internet. According to statistics from the Attica police’s electronic crime squad, 48 cases of distributing child pornography have been investigated since the beginning of 2004, 68 people have been arrested and 90 have been charged. Yet squad chief Manolis Sfakianakis told Kathimerini: «This particular form of crime is continually growing. New cases keep coming to light and new websites keep sprouting up. Two years ago, it would have been a big deal for us to get two or three such cases a year and now we see dozens of them.» Sfakianakis’s records show that the number of websites containing such material has increased by 150 percent a year since 2001. Billions of euros are spent on pornographic websites around the world and the sum is believed to equal that made from drug trafficking. In many countries, especially the United States, organized networks distribute child pornography. The same networks are also involved in child prostitution and see pornography as another extremely profitable business activity. Isolated pedophiles Sfakianakis says the distribution of child pornography has not assumed the features of organized crime, since the large majority of perpetrators act alone. In almost every case his team has dealt with, the people arrested have been pedophiles themselves. «These people are perverts, most of whom speak to us about their sexual interest in children. Of course, they also make plenty of money out of it in the process,» said Sfakianakis. The only thing that connects the suspects is sexual preference. «They come from all social classes and levels of education. They are people who think the Internet ensures anonymity,» he explained. The electronic crime squad has pursued different kinds of leads – complaints from members of the public, information received by the police from abroad, or websites the police themselves have found by searching the Internet. It often takes several weeks for them to locate the culprit. When the man in Volos photographed children in the nude and put the pictures on a website, the police spotted electricity supply poles – which are numbered – in the background, and tracked down their location and that of the perpetrator. Despite the squad’s successes, Sfakianakis is worried: «The fact that we are investigating more cases means that the number of people involved keeps growing,» he commented. He also expressed concern that many pedophiles are making contact with children through the Internet, talking to them and even persuading them to be photographed naked.