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20 Arrested in Connection with International Pornography Ring

Authorities in the United States and Western Europe have arrested 20 people on charges of running an international child pornography ring. U.S. Customs Service Commissioner Robert Bonner announced the arrests at a Friday news conference in Washington.

Those arrested in the United States are charged with taking sexually explicit photographs of children and distributing them on the internet. Customs commissioner Bonner said the 45 child victims have been removed from the care of those indicted.

"The 20 arrests and charges all relate to using and sexually abusing and exploiting children, often their own children. And then to compound the crime, the publication of the photographs, the visual depictions of their crimes, on the internet, circulating these images among themselves as part of a pedophile ring," he said.

Customs commissioner Bonner said the alleged pedophiles referred to themselves as the club and traded internet messages requesting photographs of specific sexual poses. The international investigation began last November with a request from Danish police. Mr. Bonner said there is a connection between child pornography and child abductions, several of which have recently occurred in the United States.

"At the root of many child abductions and child murders and child sexual molestations is a twisted desire for sex with children. This desire among pedophiles is fueled by child pornography, which today, unfortunately, is more available than ever via the internet," Mr. Bonner said.

In addition to the arrests in California and other U.S. states, there were arrests in Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Britain, Germany and Switzerland.