Detectives investigating a human trafficking operation from Bulgaria to the UK have made nine arrests after a series of warrants were executed.
Four search warrants leading to six arrests were executed on the morning of Wednesday 26 April in southeast England by detectives from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command.
A further three arrests were made in Bulgaria.
Detective Inspector Jim Madden from the Met’s Central Specialist Crime’s Modern Slavery Unit said:
“Today we have significantly disrupted this organised criminal network (OCN). Members of this OCN are suspected of grooming and trafficking vulnerable Bulgarian women into the UK. These women were placed into brothels and forced into prostitution through fear of violence.
“Unfortunately, this type of exploitation is still happening across London and the UK. The Met’s Modern Slavery Unit works around the clock to identify people involved in human trafficking and forced labour, and we play a role in protecting and supporting hundreds of victims each year.”
The warrants were in conjunction with Europol and Eurojust who, with the Met, have been working alongside Bulgarian authorities to break down an OCN believed to be responsible for trafficking women into the UK.
A further six warrants were conducted in Bulgaria.
A total of nine members of the OCN – three men and six women – have been arrested for modern slavery, controlling prostitution, drugs supply and money laundering offences. They all remain in custody. Assets including cash, high value vehicles and property in the region of £1 million have been seized.
At one address in Wood Green, north London, a women has been safeguarded and is now receiving support from specialist officers.
The warrants took place simultaneously in Wood Green and Tottenham in north London, Cheshunt in Hertfordshire and Milton Keynes in Bedfordshire, along with six warrants in the areas of Pleven and Dryanovo, following the work with Bulgaria’s General Directorate Combating Organised Crime’s Trafficking in Human Beings Unit.
DI Madden also highlighted how important Londoners are in spotting potential modern slavery and reporting concerns.
He added: “We need help from the public as they have an important role to play in recognising and reporting modern slavery. If you suspect someone may be a victim of modern slavery, report it. You will always be taken seriously and protection and support is available.
“Often those affected do not see themselves as potential victims of sexual exploitation and many will have been coerced into this life to make money for an organised crime network. Victims are often told the police and authorities in the UK are not to be trusted and with limited English are unable to seek help, even if they want to.
“We believe there are victims of modern slavery in every borough across London and the public may encounter them every day, possibly without realising. As well as being sexually exploited, victims have been found working in construction, domestic servitude, agriculture, cannabis factories and in places you use yourself, such as car washes, barbers and nail bars.”
If you suspect that you, or someone you have come into contact with, may be a victim of modern slavery or trafficking and require support, please call The Salvation Army’s 24 hour confidential referral helpline on 0800 808 3733. This is the best way to get support to anyone you suspect might be a victim.
You can also report a suspicion or seek advice through the Modern Slavery Helpline confidentially on 08000 121 700. This is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
You can also report to the police online at www.met.police.uk or by calling 101, in case of an emergency dial 999. Alternatively, you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at crimestoppers-uk.org.