By Suzanne Bargon
A crime gang who were trafficking women into the UK and Ireland for sexual slavery and prostitution from Brazil, Nigeria and Namibia, has been targeted and smashed.
The Serious Organised Crime Agency, in partnership with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) ruptured and dismantled the gang.
Officers within SOCA from both Wales and Northern Ireland were amongst those dealing with the operation of seizing the human traffickers. SOCA colleagues from partner agencies also took part in the seize.
The operation originated from Operation Pentameter 2 which is a UK wide operation into human trafficking.
Tim Brain, Chief Constable of Gloucestershire and Gold commander for Pentameter 2, said: “It is clear that slavery still exists. Individuals are still being brought into this country, moved across borders against their will and being forced into servitude.
“Pentameter 2 aims to discover the extent of the issue and put in place whatever means available to prevent anyone else falling victim to this evil trade.”
During operation pentameter 1 in 2006, 88 victims of trafficking from 22 countries were rescued from brothels in Britain. There were 232 arrests and 134 people were charged with a range of offences.
Searches were also carried out by the PSNI in Newry in Northern Ireland.
Bob Lauder, Regional Director, SOCA said: “Make no mistake, people trafficking is a serious crime. These are not willing participants, they are victims, and this trade destroys their lives and their families’ lives.
“The criminals running operations like this think they are unassailable. But the message today is that no-one should feel confident that the UK is a soft environment to commit crime. SOCA’s worldwide connections mean that together with our international and UK partners we are tightening the net. We will find you and we will stop you.
“Joint working with the, PSNI, An Garda Siochana, Dyfed Powys Police and UK Border Agency have resulted in these arrests. I want to thank all our partners who were intrinsic to the success of this operation.”
PSNI Head of Organised Crime Branch, Detective Chief Superintendent Essie Adair, said: “For police, this was a victim-centred operation where the highest priority has been given to the identification and rescue of any suspected victims of human trafficking. This has been followed by the investigation of any criminal offences identified.
“Our primary objective during this protracted operation has been to prevent human trafficking and rescue victims.”
Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, officially launched Operation Pentameter 2 to combat “an appalling and devastating crime which destroys the lives of its victims. This is a national operation to identify, disrupt and bring to justice those involved in human trafficking.”