Italy Declares War on Child Porn

Gretchen Gallen
ROME – Over the weekend, Italy became the latest country to round up suspects that allegedly paid for child pornography through a Belarus-based billing processor called RegPay Co. Ltd.

Part of U.S.-led Operation Predator, Italian police raided dozens of homes and located an estimated 96 suspects, mostly middle-aged, upper middle-class men. The investigation took nine months to come to fruition, although no arrests have yet been made, said Lt. Col. Leonardo Alestra at a news conference.

The raids included the seizure of hundreds of personal computers and thousands of videocassettes, CD-ROMs and DVDs, all containing images of children being sexually exploited or abused. In some cases the children were as young as three years old.

Police are only able to determine that the male suspects were in possession of child porn content, although they are currently investigating whether any were involved in the actual distribution of the material, an offense that in Italy could result in a substantial jail sentence if convicted.

Operation Predator began in 2003 when the operators of RegPay were arrested. In January, several of the company's principal executives were indicted for processing paid memberships to dozens of child porn websites.

Formerly known as Trustbill, RegPay ran child porn website Pedoworld, while also serving as the site's credit card processing company.

Information gathered from RegPay's database has provided police with information on nearly 100,000 people suspected of purchasing child porn off the Internet.

Regpay was also recently tied to a massive child porn raid in Australia that yielded hundreds of suspects.

Italian police are currently working with officials in Eastern European countries where many of the children in the images are thought to have originated from.