SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian police said on Friday they had arrested 65 people - including a priest and two teachers - and rescued six children as part of a global probe into a Canadian child sex website.
Canadian authorities said more than 300 people had been arrested around the world as part of the investigation which included Australian authorities, as well as those from the United States, Sweden, Spain, South Africa, Hong Kong and elsewhere.
"Sixty-five Australians have been arrested and 399 charges laid as part of a global investigation into a child exploitation website operating out of Canada," the Australian Federal Police said in a statement.
New South Wales police said the 65 included two school teachers, a 57-year-old Catholic priest and a 72-year-old retired Catholic priest.
The global investigation began in October 2010 when Canadian police made contact with a man sharing very graphic images of young children being sexually abused and traced him to a Toronto address.
This led to a company believed to be producing and distributing child exploitation videos and images over the Internet, and the inquiry subsequently uncovered a large network of customers around the world.
Australian authorities began investigating in 2012, eventually arresting suspects aged between 25 and 72 whom police said are from all walks of life.
They have been charged with a range of offences, including accessing, possessing, producing and distributing online child exploitation material.
"This global investigation has disrupted a widespread international network of suspects, in a powerful demonstration of law enforcement working together to protect children around the world," said Commander Glen McEwen, the Australian Federal Police's manager of cyber crime operations.
"If you choose to view and circulate child abuse images, you will be investigated, pursued and charged, regardless of where you are located."