Ten arrested in Luton during international sex trafficking operation
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An international law enforcement operation targeting suspected criminals involved in trafficking women from Romania into the UK for work in the sex industry has led to several arrests.
Officers from Bedfordshire Police, alongside European policing colleagues and several safeguarding charities, yesterday (Tuesday) undertook warrants at seven addresses in Luton and 11 in Romania in relation to an extensive, intelligence-led investigation into an organised criminal group (OCG).
Ten men aged in their 20s and 30s were arrested in Luton on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic for the purpose of sexual exploitation and paying for sexual services of someone subjected to force. A further four were apprehended in Romania, with firearms, cash and drugs also seized.
The group is suspected of trafficking women into the area for sex work using the ‘lover boy’ method, which looks to lure young victims from disadvantaged backgrounds by promising them a better life in the UK.
However, in reality they are then forced or coerced into sex work, with the OCG confiscating the victims’ passports and using violence to control them.
During yesterday’s operation - which involved more than 100 Bedfordshire Police officers and colleagues from Europol, Eurojust and Romanian police - four women suspected to have been trafficked to the UK were safeguarded and supported by specially trained officers and partners from the charities Justice and Care, Azalea and International Justice Mission.
Detective Chief Inspector Katie Dounias, from Bedfordshire Police, said: “This operation is the latest stage of a lengthy investigation into a criminal group suspected of preying on vulnerable young women, moving them significant distances from their homes and exploiting them for financial gain.
“Those involved in trafficking gangs pay absolutely no regard to the wellbeing of the women they are exploiting and it’s vital that these networks are dismantled and those involved brought to justice.
“Those being exploited are promised work, accommodation, and other appealing opportunities to leave their homes, only to find the reality is vastly different. They are often subjected to significant mental and physical trauma, which is why the assistance of our colleagues in local charities is vital to building a support network for the vulnerable victims involved.
“I would like to pay tribute to the efforts of everyone involved in the operation and thank the partners and charities who played a key part in helping the victims.”
If you have information about an address where people are being exploited for sexual purposes, please report it to online on 101
You can also report information anonymously via the Modern Slavery Helpline, on 08000 121 700.
Azalea is a local charity working with the victims of human trafficking. For advice or to report any concerns contact them on 01582 733 200.