Thursday 9 May 2013

Operations Cathedral, Wonderland & Zandvoort

On July 11, 1998, the NGO Morkhoven flushes the godfather of micro networks Ganumedes (88) and Temse / Madeira (98). Gerrit Ulrich did produce photographs and films of real crimes against children, which he sells via the Internet to pornographic magazines, as from Zandvoort, Holland. He hands over 93,081 samples to the NGO. Three months later, Holland has more reason to attend the first international police operation to fight this new type of criminality...

Operation Cathedral

Orchid, Wonderland & Zandvoort

Par Jacqueline de Cro├┐ - 24-01-2005 - updated 07-11-2010
In 1996, San Jose, California, a girl aged 10 years was abused by the father of a friend of hers, at whose home she had spent the night. The man had one of the first webcam, which at the time was considered a "sophisticated computer equipment for filming and live broadcasting of films via the Internet." The investigation leads to the "Orchid", the first known network of online and real-time images of real crime on children. They are twenty-three members, approved by the descriptions of sexual abuse perpetrated on children personally, in a password secure chat room. They exchange photographs, some of which are made with the first digital cameras connected to computers.
The abuse on the little girl had been broadcasted live in nine American states and four countries: Finland, Canada, Australia and England. The youngest victim, aged five, had been filmed while undergoing specific abuse requested by at least eleven men.
Three British members of the Orchid network led Scotland Yard to "Wonderland", a network of 180 members spanning 46 countries. Every candidate at the club must be appointed, approved and made from 10,000 photographs of actual crimes different from those of other members. Each member pays a minimum fee of $ 100 per month to access a file encrypted by the network with a code developed by the former KGB. The system is identical to that of Zandvoort: the photographs are available per batch, whose price depend on the seriousness of the crime photographed, to be published in porn magazines.
In London, a new unit called "British National Crime Squad" rises with the help of Interpol, the U.S. Customs, the British National Criminal Intelligence Service, the first international police operation, which is code-named "Cathedral", with only twelve of the forty-six countries involved: Belgium, France, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Italy, Great Britain, Australia and the United States. Holland is excused, since the NGO Morkhoven had dismantled the Zandvoort network few months earlier.
On September 2, 1998, the British National Crime Squad coordinates 1,500 police officers, who arrested 107 members of the Wonderland network simultaneously to 4:00 am. They seized 750,000 paedophile pictures and 1,800 videos, in which 1,263 children were featured - but only 17 have been identified. The report of the Australian National Crime Authority specifies that the Wonderland network is linked to local and international paedophile organizations, including the network Spartacus, itself a partner of the Zandvoort network. The survey showed that both the Wonderland and Zandvoort networks sold the production of Jean-Manuel Vuillaume, photographer and video producer paedophile pictures for the network Toro Bravo, active between France and Colombia.
We pay tribute to Marcel Vervloesem, who has dismantled the Zandvoort network on the behalf of the NGO Morkhoven unarmed, without violence or any other means than his strength of conviction. He has, by his sole work, exposed over 93,000 criminal photos and videos, while the 1500 police officers of Operation Cathedral have only contributed to the seizure of 500 of them each.

Operation Cathedral sources

  • 14-09-1998 - Main Street Monsters (U.S.)
  • 14-02-2001 - Wonderland sentences a 'joke'
  • 16-01-2002 - Renewed hunt for Wonderland victims

Wonderland sentences a 'joke'

BBC - Wednesday, 14 February, 2001, 09:27 GMT

Club members 'paid' an entry fee of 10,000 images
Child rights groups in the UK have criticised the Wonderland Club jail sentences as a "joke" which sends out the wrong message to paedophiles.
Seven British men, who peddled child pornography on the internet, were jailed for between 12 and 30 months each on Tuesday.
Under laws applying at the time the men were charged, the maximum jail term for each was three years.
But a coalition of seven UK charities including the NSPCC, Barnardo's, ChildLine, the Children's Society, the National Children's Bureau, the NCH and the NCVCCO have said they are "deeply disappointed" by the sentences.
The charities had hoped for longer jail terms under legislation introduced last year, which raised the maximum sentence for offences relating to the possession of child pornography to ten years.

"Child sex abuse is always a serious issue, but this sentencing sends out a contrary message to child sex offenders who use the internet," said NCH internet consultant John Carr.
"We viewed the change in the law as a recognition that these offences pose a very serious threat to the safety of children," he said.
While praising the efforts of police in tackling internet crime and child sex abuse, he said the sentences would mean that paedophiles would continue to thrive on the web.
Director of the child protection charity Kidscape, Dr Michelle Elliott, said: "You would get a longer sentence for accumulating masses of parking tickets or for burglary.
"I am absolutely stupefied by this leniency. It sends a clear message that these crimes are not being taken seriously."

But Detective Chief Inspector Alex Wood said police had expected the sentences, as the judge had to give credit for the men pleading guilty and sparing the time and expense of a trial.
He said their ground-breaking investigation had brought forward changes in policing of paedophiles and legislation around the world, including the UK's tougher stance.
"Paedophiles appearing in court today will receive much more severe sentences because of this legislation," he said.

International operation

The Wonderland Club paedophile ring was smashed by Operation Cathedral, the largest international operation to be co-ordinated by the National Crime Squad in London.
Raids were staged around the world on 2 September 1998, leading to 107 arrests across the UK, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and the United States.

An enormous amount of pictures were uncovered from the defendants' homes, as well as computerised videos depicting children suffering degrading sexual abuse. Passing sentence at Kingston Crown Court, Judge Kenneth Macrae told the seven men: "You directly or indirectly exploited the most vulnerable in our society. Children represent the future. They should be cared for and protected."


Ian Baldock, 31, from St Leonards, East Sussex was jailed for two-and-a-half years.
Antoni Skinner, 36, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire was jailed for 18 months.
Gavin Seagers, 29, a Sea Cadets youth leader, from Dartford, Kent was jailed for two years.
Ahmet Ali, 30, from Tulse Hill, south London, was jailed for two years.
Frederick Stephens, 46, from Hayes, west London, was jailed for a year.
Andrew Barlow, 25, from Bletchley, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, was jailed for two years.
David Hines, 30, of Bognor Regis, West Sussex was jailed for two-and-a-half years.
Gary Salt was given a 10 year sentence in 1998 for raping several children and distributing images through Wonderland. 
Stephen Ellis40, a computer salesman, from Norwich, was arrested along with eight other British-based members of the Wonder-land Club. He was charged in November 1998 with conspiracy to distribute indecent images of children. Three days after his first court appearance in January 1999, he gassed himself in his car.

Baldock and Hines were placed on the sex offenders' register for life. The others were ordered to be kept on the register for seven years.

All of the children involved were under the age of 16 and in one case the child was only three months.
More than 1,263 children were featured in the pictures - but only 17 have been identified - six in the UK, seven in the United States, one in Portugal, one in Chile, and one in Argentina.
An album has been created and posted on Interpol's website to help police forces from around the world trace the victims of abuse.

Main Street Monsters

By Elaine Shannon Monday, Sep. 14, 1998 :,9171,989082,00.html#ixzz14bsvkyxL

The Wonderland Club took its name from Lewis Carroll and its alleged clientele from Main Street, U.S.A.--including an engineer from Portland, Maine, a scientist in New Britain, Conn. Other suspected members lived in sleepy towns like Broken Arrow, Okla.; Lawrence, Kans.; and Kennebunk, Maine. And just as the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland had a scandalous predilection for photographing half-clad little girls, these seemingly solid citizens--and as many as 200 other men (and a few women) who belonged to Wonderland--shared an unspeakable secret: the codes to a dark channel in cyberspace. After a raid coordinated with 13 other countries last week, law-enforcement officials charged that Wonderland and its Wondernet operated the largest, most sophisticated ring of child pornographers yet found. "This is a dangerous, dangerous crowd," says Glenn Nick of the U.S. Customs CyberSmuggling Center in Sterling, Va. "They're dangerous because they can be in any neighborhood."
"One of the requirements for membership is a stockpile of thousands of images of graphic child pornography," said U.S. Customs commissioner Raymond Kelly last week as he announced that Operation Cheshire Cat--the feds' counter-allusion from Carroll--had resulted in the arrest of five men and the seizure of dozens of computers believed to contain more than 500,000 images of children. Authorities in Europe and Australia locked up 49 people and planned dozens more arrests. Out of the personal stockpiles, Kelly explained, members traded "in the most vile pornography imaginable over the Internet. The images depict everything from sexual abuse to the actual rape of children"--some as young as 18 months.
Some club members in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia, says agent Nick, owned production facilities and transmitted live child-sex shows over the Web. Club members directed the sex acts by sending instructions to the producers via Wondernet chat rooms. "They had standards," Nick says grimly. "The only thing they banned was snuff pictures, the actual killing of somebody." According to Nick, a couple of members were barred because they trafficked in those pictures.
The case grew out of a 1996 Customs bust of a San Jose, Calif., child-pornography ring called the Orchid Club. A pedophile who began cooperating with agents identified an online purveyor of child porn in England. The information was passed to British investigators, who arrested four child exploiters and molesters. In May, London tipped U.S. Customs to the existence of the Wonderland Club. U.S. agents tried surfing into Wondernet but failed to gain entry. They discovered that after the Orchid Club busts, Wonderland, whose members include computer programmers and hardware specialists, deployed an imposing system of codes and encryption. "They took full advantage of all the technological capabilities of the Internet," Nick says. "We couldn't get in without tipping our hand." But they could lurk, like Carroll's elusive Cheshire Cat, in the cybershadows outside the Wondernet, watching transactions until they penetrated the veil of screen names and obtained the real names and addresses of 34 U.S.-based club members.

The raids had dramatic moments. A suspect living in a trailer park in St. Charles, Mo., was arrested after agents found, along with child porn, firearms and a stash of the black powder used to make bombs. According to Customs agents, a law student in New York City threw his hard drive into a neighbor's yard (it was later discovered by a police dog). Federal sources say an alleged club member in Allen, Texas, committed suicide last week after being served with a search warrant.

But other suspects have quickly admitted their involvement and provided their pass codes, screen names and cyberlinks to investigators. With those keys and decrypted data from seized computers, agents expect to make dozens more arrests. So far, the evidence suggests that Wonderland reached into 47 countries. The police services of those nations are being invited to join the next round of raids. At the same time, officials are looking for the ring's young victims. Customs has set up a 24-hour child-porn hot line, 800-BE-ALERT.
No one is claiming to be able to purge the Net completely of evil. As a result of the crackdown, says agent Nick, "I'm sure there are a lot of hard drives being reformatted throughout the world." But, he says, "we certainly disrupted a network, and with any luck, we'll be able to pick off a few of them." His warning to parents: "You can't just put a computer in your kids' bedroom, hook it up to the Internet and expect them not to run into trouble. That's like dropping your kids off at the playground at 7 a.m. and not coming back till 7 p.m. Anything can happen to them." As Operation Cheshire Cat shows, there are monsters hiding in plain sight, right in the middle of Main Street.

Renewed hunt for Wonderland victims

BBC - Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 14:35 GMT

Police trying to identify children in photographs circulated by the Wonderland Club paedophile ring are stepping up their hunt by using the latest facial mapping technology.
The National Crime Squad (NCS) has found just 18 of the 1,200 youngsters featured in the pornographic images circulated by the club's members.

But the team which smashed the ring is hoping a £500,000 pilot project based on facial mapping will help them find many more.

The NCS is working with a Canadian company called Imagis to develop the new system, which should allow them to match photographs of the same child taken at different times and in different places.

The few computer programmes currently available to police investigating paedophile activity concentrate on identifying the backgrounds of photographs in a bid to link them to the perpetrators.
The NCS's new programme will concentrate far more on identifying the child.
Seven British members of the Wonderland Club were jailed in February 2001 for between 12 and 30 months each.
Detective Superintendent Peter Spindler, who was in overall charge of the original Wonderland operation, said: "Our operational priority was always to protect children from abuse and we undertook to use the material seized to further this aim.
"We believe we now have access to the best available tool which clearly has the potential to be used internationally."
Following Operation Cathedral, which uncovered Wonderland in 1998, detectives seized 750,000 images of abuse.

Wonderland Club members communicated on the internet

These were cleaned up and sanitised and more than 1,200 clearly identifiable children's faces were distributed to all UK police forces and international forces through Interpol."To date we have only been able to make 18 positive identifications," Mr Spindler said in a report to the NCS Service Authority.
"The multi-agency pilot project involved Child Protection Teams, Social Services and education departments but was found to be very labour intensive and time consuming.
International database
"Valuable resources were diverted from direct child protection activity by the high number of `false positive' identifications."
The NCS was at the forefront of another international paedophile crackdown, Operation Landmark, in November last year, and from that was able to add another 60,000 obscene images to its database.
NCS director general Bill Hughes and National Criminal Intelligence Service director general John Abbott want the G8's Lyon Group and Europol to create a single international victim database hosted by Interpol.
"It is our intention as the owners of the world's largest collection of paedophilic data to deliver the international solution to this problem," said Mr Spindler.
After the completion of the facial mapping project in the UK, a feasibility study will be carried out for its use internationally.

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