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Europe effort launched to smash child porn websites

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CIOL Bureau
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LONDON, UK: A broad European alliance of industry and police began sharing private financial information on Tuesday in a bid to crack down on criminals who profit from distributing child pornography on the web.

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Credit card companies, Internet firms, police forces, NGOs and the European Commission officially launched the initiative in London to stop the trade in the images.

Marking the launch of a major pan-European effort, Commission Vice-President Jacques Barrot and British interior minister Jacqui Smith said the scheme would seek to smash organised networks.

"The government is determined to tackle child sex abuse in all its forms and cracking down on those who make financial gain from the distribution of these sickening images is a priority," Smith said.

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She said the new coalition will unite more groups to track, disrupt, prosecute and seize the assets of those who profit from child sex crimes.

"The European Financial Coalition (EFC) will help identify and protect victims of this horrific crime by following the money trail that takes the police to the offender," Barrot said, urging more EU partners to join the scheme.

He said the Commission would fund the scheme to the tune of 427,000 euros ($540,100).

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Led by the UK's Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre, a dedicated police team, the EFC will target systems of online payment and support police tackling the issue.

Founding members of the coalition MasterCard, Microsoft Inc, PayPal, Visa Europe and NGO Missing Children Europe are joined by law firm Allen & Overy LLP and other children's charities in the effort.

Chief Executive of the CEOP Centre Jim Gamble said the organised crime element had been reduced over the years since the days of Operation Ore, a huge police investigation into British users of American child pornography Web sites, as the risk increased and profits fell.

"Now by applying the individual lessons learnt and by coming together with our combined skills...we plan to eradicate the remnants of that industry once and for all," he said.

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