NEW DELHI: The Indian CBI has launched a worldwide probe in a child pornography case and approached 40 countries, seeking details of mobile phone owners who were part of a WhatsApp group, in which certain images and videos were shared, officials said here.
The agency has approached the countries through Interpol, they said.
There were 234 members in the "child pornography group" comprising 66 Indian numbers, 56 Pakistani, 29 from the US and the remaining from 37 other countries.
The agency sent a reference to these countries through Interpol and some of them have shared information related to the users, they said, without giving further details as the disclosure might adversely affect the ongoing probe.
The CBI, on February 22, had claimed to have busted an international child abuse pornography racket operating through a WhatsApp group and arrested its alleged administrator -- Nikhil Verma -- from Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh.
The CBI booked Verma, along with four of his accomplices, Nafees Reza and Zahid of Delhi, Satyendra Om Prakash Chauhan of Mumbai and Adarsh of Noida.
They said all the accused were interrogated in connection with the case.
During the investigation, the agency has found that there are 119 members of the group "KidsXXX", who were getting these disturbing pictures and videos, they said.
Besides India, Pakistan and the US, the members of the group also hailed from including China, New Zealand, Mexico, Afghanistan, Brazil, Kenya, Nigeria and Sri Lanka, the officials had said.
During the searches, the CBI seized mobile phones, laptops, hard discs and other digital devices, which were sent to a government laboratory in Thiruvananthapuram for analysis, they said.
The officials said the question whether the racket was making the videos could only be answered after the examination of the digital content at the laboratory.
Verma, a commerce undergraduate whose father works in a jewellery shop, has already been arrested.
The agency had acted on its own intelligence gathered over nearly three months, the officials said.
According to the officials, it was a classic police investigation where the sleuths travelled to localities, from where IP addresses of computers and mobile phones used to upload and circulate child pornography videos, a heinous offence under the law.
A thorough background check and behavioural analysis were done by the agency, based on local inputs of the suspects, before proceeding against them, they added.
Accessing, producing, recording, uploading or circulating child abuse videos or pictures are serious offences under the Information Technology Act and attract a punishment of up to seven years and a fine of Rs 10 lakh.