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24 June 2011, 11:58
Nine people have been arrested after a big operation targeting a gang suspected of trafficking sex workers around Britain.
In one of the biggest operations of its kind ever carried out in the UK, around 150 officers from the UK Border Agency and eight different police forces carried out simultaneous raids at 13 different addresses around the South and East of England, including places like Hemel Hempstead, Luton and Watford.
Three men aged 52, 38 and 34 and a woman aged 35 were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to control prostitution for gain, trafficking and money laundering offences. The 52 year old man was arrested in Hemel Hempstead.
Four men and a woman, all believed to be Chinese nationals, were arrested on suspicion of being involved in the management of a brothel. All nine people arrested are being questioned by UK Border Agency investigators.
Five suspected sex workers were discovered at the addresses. They are now being cared for and assessed at a specialist centre in the South East of England.
Three people, all Chinese nationals, were detained for immigration offences.
Suspected brothel premises in the Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Surrey, Berkshire, Hampshire and Essex areas were among those raided. Homes and business addresses in south west London, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire areas were also targeted.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said: "As today’s raids show, we are working with the police and other law enforcement agencies to tackle the organised criminals who abuse the immigration system.
"This summer we are targeting our efforts on breaking up the organised gangs who trade in human beings and are behind visa scams. The message is clear - the UK is no longer a safe haven for immigration offenders and human traffickers.”
The operation was co-ordinated by the UK Border Agency’s Criminal and Financial Investigation team.
Assistant Director Sam Bullimore, from the team, said: "This is one of the biggest operations ever undertaken by the UK Border Agency, targeting what we believe is a significant organised crime group responsible for the supply of sex workers around the South East.
"It is the result of an extensive and lengthy investigation involving the UK Border Agency and a number of police forces. That investigation continues with the evidence that we have seized today.”
As well as UK Border Agency investigators and staff, officers from the Thames Valley, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Surrey, Hampshire and Essex Police forces were involved in the operation, along with officers from London's Metropolitan Police.
The UK Border Agency say anyone who has information about immigration crime can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 anonymously or visit http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org
Watch one of the raids