By M.K. Styllinski
“Part of the great mystery and scandal that accompanied the [Dutroux] case was the relentless incompetence of the authorities, at that time led by the Justice Minister, Melchior Wathelet. For years, as victims were kidnapped and murdered, police files were full of reports and tip-offs that Dutroux was selling young girls. Yet Dutroux stayed free.
In the end Mr Wathelet was forced to resign in disgrace. And his reward for incompetence in the administration of Justice was – to be appointed a judge at the European Court of Justice. That would be like our chief executive of the Financial Regulator, Patrick Neary, being appointed head of NAMA. Which would be a joke. But having anyone involved in any way with the horrors of the bungled Dutroux investigation appointed to one of Europe’s most senior judicial positions is no joke. It is, however, a good measure of the arrogance of the euro-elite towards what might be called the plain people of Europe.”
– Mary Ellen Synon, Irish Daily Mail
The Marc Dutroux child abduction and murder case caused the police and judicial systems to spring into action across Europe, forming closer connections and joint initiatives with law enforcement agencies world-wide. New operational procedures and affiliations came into being and whole new departments were created tasked with the investigation and prosecution of human traffickers and internet-based paedophile rings. There have been successes, of that there is no doubt. While many innocent persons have been convicted, along with opportunistic and small-time paedophiles without convictions or any violent tendencies, one wonders just how many of those with higher profiles were prosecuted. Very few, it seems, if any.
As mentioned, 1996 was a pivotal year for an explosion of child murder and abuse related cases. It was a year that saw hidden networks unravelling, at least in the lower tiers of the social pyramid. It may also have been a year when those in Establishment circles decided to employ specific tactics to further scapegoat society and thereby protect themselves from the inevitable information explosion care of the internet. As we may recall, the corruption of law enforcement authorities and intelligence agencies and their highly suspect methods for dealing with the commercial proliferation in child pornography is open to question. Nevertheless, the trade and exchange of child pornography remains a reality. Investigations over what was known as the Orchid Club hit the headlines.
Live Internet, real-time transmissions of children being sexually abused, ranging in age from five to ten years, formed the basis of membership. At least eight children were known to have been molested in connection with the secret club. A typical example was that of a 5-year old somewhere in the Mid-western United States who was molested while at least 11 men watched and asked for specific types of abuse to be carried out. Digital technology was also utilized allowing many of the images to be displayed in real time and with optimum quality. A password restricted chat room acted as the primary cyber location for members to exchange child pornography and to share their various tales of the sexual abuse of children. The images were sent over the Internet to Orchid Club members in nine states and four countries, where descriptions of their most recent sexual molestation would grant them membership. Sixteen men were subsequently indicted for their involvement to produce pornographic images and videotapes.
Of the known countries, the ring extended into the United States, United Kingdom, Finland, Canada and Australia. Over an eighteen month period some prosecutions were made possible, though many members proved untraceable due to the use of anonymous re-mailers, which means another computer acts as mediator and blocks the identity of the user.
In 1998 investigations of three British members of Orchid led police to the Wonderland Club. This was to be touted as the world’s most sophisticated child pornography ring, which needed the same extensive link-up between European police forces including Interpol, US Customs and UK National Criminal Intelligence Service, all of whom assisted in the organization of simultaneous arrests.
The Wonderland Club had over 180 members in the United States, Belgium, Norway, Portugal, Finland, Norway, Italy, France, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Membership was by invitation only with a mandatory nomination and approval of prospective candidates. A special requirement for membership was to own and display at least 10,000 child pornographic images that had to be original and without duplications of images already present within the Club. This was a ring that was marketing and selling images of some horrific forms of abuse with a very steady market demand. Members had access to some extremely sophisticated computer equipment and security systems including network encrypted files and codes developed by the Soviet KGB.  One member from the United States was found with a database of more than 100,000 pornographic images of children.
Coordination of the operation code named “Cathedral” was carried out by the newly formed unit of the National Crime Squad based in London. On the first day over 100 suspected paedophiles/child molesters in 12 countries were arrested. Police in Germany arrested 10 persons in raids across seven states. These raids indicated that 200 people were involved in making child pornographic videos for the Internet. In the initial sweep, there were 11 arrests in UK, 32 in the United States, 8 in Norway, 3 in Italy, and 5 in France. More arrests were made in the days that followed the initial crackdown.
How many were guilty of serious crimes is still a moot point. What is highly probable is that high ranking Wonderland members who inhabited sensitive posts within Whitehall or the Oval Office were quietly side-lined for blackmail purposes and/or immediate protection. Meanwhile, the Joe-six-pack paedophile carried the can for the raids.
The sentencing imposed on those found guilty is also indicative of a certain judicial predisposition. From a report during the trials in the UK: “The maximum sentence they can receive is three years in prison and they are likely to serve much less. The tariff is due to be raised soon to ten years but too late for these men. And it may not be the end of the club. David Hines says, ‘ they’ll hide up and then they’ll go looking for each other and they’ll regroup and the group will eventually be as big as it was, with new members and with all the old pictures still floating around out there.’ ”  And further: 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.’ […] All of the children involved were under the age of 16 and in one case the child was only three months.” 
The highest sentence given to the organizers and perpetrators of these crimes was a mere two years. The leniency shown at such sentencing was mystifying to all. They are now, no doubt continuing their trade. The director of child protection charity Kidscape, Dr Michelle Elliott, said: “You would get a longer sentence for accumulating masses of parking tickets or for burglary. It sends a clear message that these crimes are not being taken seriously.” 
“The governments of the European Union avert their gaze when it comes to trafficking children, despite having signed on to the Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Trafficking and Child Pornography. A 2002 report by Europol, the European Law Enforcement Agency, on the trafficking of human beings into the EU, shows that most of the 15 member states keep no relevant statistics at all. Only four provide any concrete information, with the majority reporting that figures are ‘not available’ or ‘not given.’ ”
– ‘Trafficking Human Misery’ By Richard Tyler WSWS, 25 October, 2003
In July 1998, The Morkhoven child protection group, handed over CD-ROM computer disks that Dutch police believed to be “crucial evidence in their investigation of an international paedophile ring, circulating child pornography on the Internet.”  More than 9,000 images were found in the Zandvoort, Netherlands in the apartment of paedophile, Gerrie Ulrich who had co-run the child pornography ring. This evolved into the investigation of The Netherlands Club.
The disks contained images of child abuse with names and addresses of a child porn/vice ring which was operating in the Netherlands, Germany, the United States, Israel and Russia. Morkhoven also discovered lists of American, Russian, German and Israeli citizens, who, it says, received the material over the Internet. It was to be the largest cache of paedophiliac material ever seized.  The short films and photographs found by the police were so shocking they caused one psychologist and police consultant to comment: “‘for professional reasons I have seen a lot of such porn,’” he said, ‘but this left me speechless. It looks like the perpetrators are not dealing with human beings but with objects.’” Some of the children being abused are infants and toddlers, he said.”  Some of the pornography was made with babies ranging from 12 to 15 months old. One film, titled “Oh Daddy,” shows balding middle-aged men raping 5-and 8-year old girls. It seems from the footage viewed, sedation may have been used on many of the babies and toddlers as their reactions during the torture and abuse were barely noticeable. Although most of the material was found in the Netherlands it was believed that the bulk of the finds was Eastern Europe and posted on the net in the United States.
In March 2001, due to the familiar heel-dragging of authorities on this and the associated elements within the Dutroux case, legal advisor to the Morkhoven Group, Patricia van der Smissen wrote on their behalf to the Minister of Justice and the President of the European Parliament. She requested support in carrying out systematic research to identify the children and adults seen in the material that contained graphic scenes of rape and torture on children. Action on the whereabouts and identity of these children was painfully slow and to this day remains unknown.
Van der Smissen also asked for resources for the Neufchâteau Public Prosecutor’s Department in where many files had been opened as a consequence of the Dutroux case. Smissen hoped for an office to be opened specifically charged with professionally analysing this material. It was not until several years later that the CD ROMS and the files from the Dutroux case would lead back to more high level child rape networks extending from Belgium, The Netherlands, Portugal, Italy, France, Australia, Germany, and the United Nations; finally leading back to the centralized vacuum of the USA from which most of the networks originally began.
Most European countries in any one month will have a case of child pornography in a “professional” or amateur capacity. The repeating link with the Balkans cropped up as a major nexus point for child pornography on top of the already expanding trade in human trafficking. This is understandable being a traditional stronghold of Russian-Jewish and Albanian mafia markets in these regions.
In August of 1999, Latvia police uncovered a child prostitution/porn ring in Riga involving over 2,000 children. Latvian officials were rumoured to be connected with the abuse and a parliamentary commission was set up and a report issued in the following year linking a number of high level officials, military, policemen and politicians – including the Prime Minister and Justice Minister. A smear campaign was swiftly launched against the commission chairman to distract attention away from the evidence. Latvia’s laws make it easy for child molesters to access children. One man ran a photo-video agency which prosecutors say was also “involved in supplying models for child porn and abuse both to prominent members of Latvian society and to visiting foreigners. Many of the children featured were from orphanages.” 
Rivalry between Belarus and Latvia is claimed by some to be behind some of the allegations including the recent furore regarding the second secretary of the Latvian Embassy who was accused of starring in “a dirty homosexual orgy” and distributing pornography.  This followed on from the jailing of Belarusian based company executives totalling 25 years for running a child porn ring from the US which catered to thousands of subscribers worldwide and depicting “images of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct.” The Belarus firm and Connections USA in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, collected $3 million in credit-card memberships to various pornographic Web sites during a six-month period ending in August, where fifteen persons were arrested in New Jersey as part of the scheme, including: “a family physician, three previously convicted sex offenders, a campus minister, part-time teacher and church youth coordinator and an 85-year-old retired engineer.” 
In the neighbouring country of Estonia child abuse remains an acute problem. This was highlighted by the arrest of an executive director of a crisis hotline service in 2006. According to Estonian media, the charity executive was preying on young boys who had phoned the crisis hotline. He invited them to his home and “made photos with them naked, abused them sexually and filmed porn movies with them. He was also searching for boys through fashion internet portals.” 
Slovakian police cooperated with forces in 11 other EU countries and the US to arrest nine men ranging in age from 30 to 52 years, all of them Slovak citizens, on May 10 of 2006. All were charged with the distribution of child pornography.
Belgian and Dutch paedophile groups have long been operating in Portugal. Like Belgium and Holland, the particularly lax laws and indifference of the courts regarding child abuse have resulted in traceable evidence of paedophiles filming young children on the island of Madeira. 
But perhaps the most worrying aspect of this techno-pathology and the entrepreneurial nature of this crime was found after a Croatian police sting targeting amateur operations. The trail eventually led back to a Glasgow History and Philosophy student who admitted running a 389 strong international child porn ring from a city centre internet café. 
 Global Crime Report: ‘The Wickedness of Wonderland’ BBC News, 1998.
 BBC TV Panorama programme, ‘The Wonderland Club’ reporter: Jane Corbin, aired Sunday February 11, 2001 and on February 14, 2001. Child rights groups in the UK criticise the Wonderland Club jail sentences as a “joke” which sends out the wrong message to paedophiles.
 ‘Paedophiles jailed for porn ring’ BBC News, 13 February, 2001.
 ‘Porn ring ‘was real child abuse’ BBC News, 10 January, 2001.
 ‘New evidence in paedophile investigation’ BBC News, July 22, 1998
 ‘Dutch Say a Sex Ring Used Infants on Internet’ The New York Times, July 19 1998
 ‘Latvian orphans bought for sex’ by Sue Lloyd-Roberts, BBC News, 26 May, 2000.
 ‘Belarus Boots Out Latvian “Porn Dealer”’, By Charles Hawley, Speigel Online August 2, 2006.
 ‘Belarusian executives get 25 years for child porn’ By Jerry Seper, The Washington Times, August 10, 2006.
 ‘Estonian Crisis Hotline Boss Arrested for Child Porn’ MosNews.com, March 2, 2006.
 ‘Dutch Say a Sex Ring Used Infants on Internet’ New York Times, July 19 1998.
 ‘Child porn ring run from net café’ BBC News, 14 October 2005.