LYON, France (AP) — French police have arrested 61 people suspected of involvement in a vast child pornography network, including at least three people who raped children on camera, officials said Thursday.
Among the suspects are several who work in jobs that put them in contact with children, such as teachers, religious leaders and city hall officials, according to Eric Bérot, head of the French police agency overseeing the operation.
They were arrested in coordinated operations in 30 regions of France between Monday and Thursday, based on months of investigation of child pornography shared on peer-to-peer networks online, Berot told The Associated Press. French investigators specializing in online crime spotted exchanges of child pornography files using software from a U.S. non-profit company, Child Rescue Coalition.
French police seized hundreds of hard drives, computers, tablets and USB keys during numerous searches, and investigators are still sorting through the images and data, Berot said.
Among the suspects are a sports teacher who filmed children in locker rooms and a computer scientist who admitted to investigators that he had regularly raped his 14-year-old daughter since she was nine, Berot said. At the suspect’s home, the police found more than 110,000 images and 2,000 criminal videos. Three other suspects were seen on camera raping children, he said.
“These arrests include everyone, all trades, all social classes, from merchants to managers, from white collar to blue collar, of all ages, from 28 to 75 years old, from all family situations, single people, those in a couple, with or without children,” Bérot said.
Sixty of the suspects are men, and one is a woman accused of watching the videos with her partner.
Of the 61 arrested, 13 had previous records and were on the national register of perpetrators of sexual offenses. Some 60 prosecutors are now investigating each case.