NINE men ranging in age from 30 to 52 years, all of them Slovak citizens, were arrested on May 10 and charged with distributing child pornography as part of an international raid that saw police in Slovakia cooperating with forces in 11 other EU countries and the US.
The operation, code named "Baleno", meaning "flash", was led by Dutch police and was coordinated by Europol, the European police agency. Police in Austria, Belgium, Estonia, France, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Hungary and the United States conducted 150 searches overall, although no details were released on how many people were arrested, or in which countries.
In Slovakia, police made seven home searches and three searches of other premises in Bratislava, Trnava, Trenčín and Nitra, including the Bratislava premises of the public broadcaster STV, where one man was arrested.
Police Vice-President Jaroslav Spišiak told The Slovak Spectator that it was the second time the Slovak police had participated in such an international pornography bust.
"The significance of this operation was enormous," he said. "It shows the collaboration and importance of Europol."
In June last year, police in 13 EU countries including Slovakia raided 150 locations in a similar child pornography bust.
"The people who were arrested were completely surprised, as the searches were conducted at the same time around the world to prevent these people from warning each other over the Internet," Spišiak said.
Police in Slovakia seized 13 computers, 5 USB keys, 1 external hard disc, 11 memory cards, 211 DVDs, 210 CDs, 277 discs and 170 video cassettes. The evidence will be examined by forensic specialists; police have given out no further information, citing the ongoing investigation.
The Dutch police originally supplied information to 76 countries about at Internet message board whose members both possessed and distributed child abuse material.
The network used hi-tech methods to hide electronic identities and to post encrypted content on free Web services.
- Tom Nicholson with files from SITA
15. May 2006 at 0:00