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Johannesburg - A Joburg man allegedly obtained and sold child pornography for about 10 years, until the US intelligence service was alerted to his dealings in 2009.

The trial of William Richard de Vries, of Greymont, got under way in the high court in Joburg on Tuesday.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has slapped him with 107 counts relating to unlawful possession of child pornography, unlawful creation of such, as well as procurement by importing and distribution.

Judge Colin Lamont heard that the authorities started investigating De Vries in April 2009, after he sold child pornography to an undercover agent attached to the US's Postal Inspection Service.

State witness Johan Claasen, who is a senior criminal investigator at the US embassy in Pretoria, told the court that his colleagues in New York had alerted him to online criminal activities which they had identified.

“(They) informed us that they had identified five IP (internet protocol) addresses regarding an individual who may have been involved in child pornography,” Claasen said.

In addition to the IP addresses, the American also picked up money transfers to two South Africans.

In an undercover sting operation, a security agent then bought child-porn DVDs from De Vries.

De Vries exported the DVDs to New York, inadvertently availing the evidence the Americans needed to nail him.

“We gave the information to the South African police,” said Claasen.

The US authorities initially sought to have De Vries extradited to that country and charge him there.

But his extradition was averted when the NPA moved to charge and prosecute him in Joburg.

Police raided De Vries's house in March 2010 and confiscated his computers and DVDs, and a case was opened against him in that year.

The NPA finally indicted him last year, after years of investigating him. The probe entailed cracking the password-protected DVDs the police had seized at his home.

De Vries had been involved “in peddling of child pornography for several years and as early as 1998”, said the NPA indictment, which The Star has seen.

“The accused would, inter alia but not limited to, surf the internet for child pornography and download and store (it) onto computer storage media,” it said.

He allegedly also obtained child pornography in the form of films, photos, cartoons and short sexual stories.

The NPA maintained that De Vries advertised child pornography on the internet under guise. Potential clients opened the adverts while thinking they were about music, science or geography.

“The use of these cryptic and disguised adverts and the further use of various email accounts were for the purpose of maintaining anonymity and to avoid any legal repercussions,” said the NPA.

De Vries is standing his ground against the charges.

His advocate Norman Makhubela sought to push forensic IT expert Charl Louw to admit there was no proof that De Vries ran the online profiles that sold child pornography.

Makhubela asked Louw if he could determine the location from which the profiles were surfing the net.

“I can’t trace that activity,” Louw responded.

The trial continues today, with the agent who arrested De Vries due to testify from the US via Google Hangout.

The Star