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Members of a suspected human trafficking gang linked to Romania have been arrested at various locations across the UK in early morning raids led by Wiltshire Police.
Today (14/06), officers from local Forces in Leeds, Birmingham, Reading, Southampton and Oldham simultaneously carried out warrants at individual addresses in these specific parts of the country. They were supported by staff from the National Crime Agency, South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SW ROCU) and local authorities for each area.
Two men and two women were arrested on suspicion of human trafficking and money laundering.
In total, seven addresses were searched.
Birmingham - one male suspect - aged 27 arrested
Reading - two suspects - one male suspect aged 37 and a female suspect aged 25 arrested
Southampton - one female suspect aged 26 arrested.
More than five thousand pounds worth of cash was also seized along with several mobile phones. Two illegal brothels were discovered, one in Southampton and the other in Reading.
A total of five victims from Reading, Southampton and Oldham were rescued and are now receiving help and support from our partners and specialist officers.
Detective Inspector Angela Shipp from Wiltshire Police said: "This was a major international operation led by us to arrest some of the suspects who we believe are members of a Europe wide organised crime group which traffic victims from Romania into the UK.
"These illegal organised gangs operate all over the world - they know no boundaries - and cause misery to countless victims who are often enslaved, have to live in often horrendous conditions with no quality of life, and are forced into sexual exploitation to survive.
"The victims we rescued today were engaged with and are now being looked after by specially trained officers.
"Thanks to our joined up work with our partners here and abroad, today's operation has been a success as we manage to arrest four people on suspicion of modern slavery crimes. All have been taken to either Gablecross Police Station in Swindon or Melksham Police Station to be interviewed."
Wiltshire PCC Philip Wilkinson said: “Ensuring our county is hostile to anyone involved in modern slavery or human trafficking is a priority for Wiltshire Police and is one of the reasons why I am so pleased no stone has been left unturned in order to bring those vile individuals involved in this appalling trade to justice.
“Protecting the weak and vulnerable victims is of paramount importance to me and working with other agencies with the same combined goal has ensured Wiltshire Police has been able to play a part in that protection.
“Slavery didn’t die out with its abolishment in earlier centuries, it has just found different ways to exist and exploit vulnerable victims. A person’s freedom and right-to-life are the most basic human rights and ones which must be robustly defended and this proactive policing operation has shown gangmasters and their enforcers there is nowhere to hide – Wiltshire is not a place for you or your criminal activities.”
If you suspect modern slavery or human trafficking taking place in your street, town or area, please report any suspicious incidents via 101 or our website. Dial 999 if it's an emergency. You can also call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.