Clues sought abroad on Latvian porn Web site

  • 2000-05-11
  • By Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - The Northern Region Court in Riga issued a warrant April 18 for searching the premises of three Internet companies in the United States involved with an alleged Latvian model agency-based child pornography and prostitution racket.

"The companies are Host-All.Com Inc., CCBill and Internet Billing Co. Ltd.," said Sandra Amola, Riga Northern Court Chairwoman.

Over the World Wide Web, the three companies have been hosting a Web site for Logos Centrs model agency in Latvia. The companies are registered in Florida, Arizona and California.

"More detailed information would be useful for the investigation. We have asked for legal assistance from the United States. Now we are waiting to check international agreements, and this assistance can be realized after the legislation of the countries has been checked. The situation is that we need this assistance. It would be difficult to do all the investigation only in Latvia," said Dzintra Subrovska, spokeswoman for the general prosecutor's office in Latvia.

The general prosecutor's office wants to confirm already obtained evidence as well as to acquire new evidence relating to the model agency.

Head prosecutor Modris Adlers told BNS the search warrants will be sent to the United States law enforcement authorities as a backup to the request on legal assistance with the Logos Centrs case.

"I haven't received it, so I have no comment on it. We don't go out and look at every site to see what is going on. We don't have responsibility for content except you can't do anything illegal, and if you do, we'll shut you off. We do not condone illegal activities associated with any of the Web sites that our company services," Tom Fisher, spokesman for CCBill, said.

The prosecutor could not tell which institution in the United States would search the premises of the three Internet companies.

"This happens all the time. We can't control our clients. There's nothing we can do about it," said Mike Lance.

He works with clients for the Internet Billing Co. in Florida.

"We have around 75,000 clients. I have no idea who you are talking about," Lance answered when asked about the Logos Centrs model agency.

According to materials of the criminal case, Logos Centrs was offering models for porno movies and prostitutes, among them underage girls, through its Internet home pages.

Richard Neales, CEO for Host-All.Com Inc., said he remembered working with Logos Centrs.

"Yes I remembered that we shut them down in September 1999, and in my notes it says the reason was pornography or something like that," Neales said.

A court ruling this month in the United States made it unlikely that the hosts of the Logos Centrs site will be investigated.

On May 1 the U.S. Supreme Court left intact a ruling that Internet service providers are not legally or financially liable when someone is defamed in e-mail communications or bulletin board messages. ISPs are like telephone companies, the court said.

In the case before the court, an impostor posted several vulgar messages in the name of Alexander Lunney, then 15, six years ago. Lunney, a Bronxville, New York, high school student at the time, sued Prodigy Service Co. after the impostor opened accounts under his name and sent a threatening, profane e-mail message to someone who notified police. The real Alexander Lunney, whose innocence in the episode was quickly established, never was a Prodigy customer.

Three New York state courts ruled that Lunney's lawsuit against Prodigy must fail, on the base that Internet service providers cannot be held responsible for their customers' actions.