Five men from Hong Kong were among 348 people arrested by police officers in various countries as part of a global investigation into a child exploitation website operating out of Canada.
The operation, started in 2010, is ongoing. Police in Toronto, Canada, said those arrested included doctors, nurses, schoolteachers, child-related volunteer workers, foster carers, pastors, priests and law enforcement personnel. Some 386 children had been rescued around the world.
Canadian police said 108 people were arrested in that country and 76 in the United States. In Australia, 65 people were arrested by New South Wales police, including two schoolteachers, a 57-year-old Catholic priest and a 72-year-old retired priest.
Hong Kong police said four local men and one expatriate man, aged 31 to 72, were arrested between August and December last year in an operation codenamed "Pinefield".
Officers seized seven computers, 125 DVDs and six hard disks, and recovered more than 600 pictures and 96 video clips containing obscene images of children. Four of the Hong Kong men were charged and three convicted. One man was jailed for 10 months, one was fined HK$5,000 and the other ordered to do 120 hours of community service.
Inspector Joanna Beaven-Desjardins of Toronto police said: "Officers seized hundreds of thousands of videos detailing horrific sexual acts against very young children, some of the worst they have ever viewed."
Toronto police said the investigation began with a Toronto man accused of running a company since 2005 that distributed child pornography videos. Brian Way, 42, allegedly instructed people around the world to create videos of children aged from five to 12, then distributed the videos via his company, Azov Films, to international buyers.
The videos included some of naked boys from Germany, Romania and Ukraine, marketed as naturist movies and claimed to be legal in Canada and the US.
Officers seized computers, servers, DVD burners, a video editing suite and hundreds of movies from Way's home and office. He was charged with 24 offences, including child pornography, and has been held in custody since his arrest in 2011.
Toronto police began their investigation in 2010 and worked with Interpol in more than 50 countries. They said the investigation was continuing and believed more arrests would be made.
Associated Press, Agence France-Presse