TOP executives from banks, insurance firms, legal practices and IT companies are on the growing list of alleged South African paedophiles linked to an international child-porn ring.
A specially established police task team is investigating 50 suspected paedophiles in the country. Initially thought to comprise 26 people, the list is growing rapidly. Last week six men, including a former Eastern Cape teacher, a retired school principal, another teacher, a dermatologist, a LegalAid lawyer and a businessman were arrested in country- wide raids.
They have all been charged with being in possession of child pornography.
The six – along with other suspects – allegedly subscribed to a Canadian website that supplies child pornography to paedophiles globally. Police spokesman Lieutenant-General Solomon Makgale said yesterday 30 search warrants had been obtained in connection with the "nearly 50 suspects we are investigating".
"We arrested the six because we had evidence and exhibits relating to alleged child pornography. There are other people we suspect of being involved in child pornography, but we could not arrest them because we are awaiting results from the analysis of computers, external hard drives, memory sticks, cameras and video cameras seized in the raids.
"They did electronic transactions. It is there. They cannot reverse that. Our job is to find and secure the evidence," Makgale said. Analysis of hundreds of DVDs, computers and computer equipment was expected to be completed by late next week.
Police cyber crime experts are trawling through the databases while investigators are racing to finalise their suspect list, and secure search and arrest warrants.
Many of the suspects are being monitored by other government agencies alerted to the operation, a policeman with knowledge of the investigation said.
He said a number of them had links to high-profile companies and professional practices.
"They are not small fry. A few are said to be quite powerful," he said, adding that the list of suspects was expected to grow.
"Many of the electronic devices, computers and hard drives are encrypted.
"There are a number of suspects, married, with children and living so-called normal lives, who are being incredibly uncooperative."
LegalAid spokesman Mpho Phasha confirmed that a senior legal manager in the North West had been arrested. The lawyer resigned the day he was arrested.