Detectives have made six arrests and safeguarded a number of victims from brothels in Westminster as part of an operation to crackdown on sexual exploitation and those who financially benefit from it.
The Met’s Modern Day Slavery Investigation Team, part of Specialist Crime, carried out a day of action on, Wednesday 22 April, targeting the sexual exploitation of women at brothels in Westminster.
Officers carried out early morning warrants today at seven London addresses – four of which were brothels – and one residential address in Gloucestershire. As a result, six people were arrested.
The victims are being supported by specialist officers and will be safeguarded with the assistance of partner agencies, including The Salvation Army, which will help to ensure they have somewhere safe to stay and the support they need to begin to rebuild their lives.
Those arrested include:
38-year-old woman on suspicion of modern slavery and proceeds of crime offences.
30-year-old man on suspicion of modern slavery and proceeds of crime offences.
67-year-old woman on suspicion of modern slavery and proceeds of crime offences.
29-year-old woman on suspicion of modern slavery and proceeds of crime offences.
27-year-old man on suspicion of money laundering.
28-year-old woman on suspicion of money laundering.
Four have been taken to a central London police station and two have been taken to a station in Gloucestershire where they all remain in custody.
The arrests are part of an investigation, called Operation Huai, into an organised crime group believed to be sexually exploiting women at brothels in Westminster. The majority of victims are Chinese, however a minority are Romanian and UK nationals.
As a result of this morning’s warrants, Brothel Closure Orders have been applied to the four premises visited.
As part of Operation Huai, detectives established a second investigation titled Operation Martagon, which focuses on building evidence against the perpetrators using the proceeds of crime to fund their luxurious lifestyles.
As part this morning’s warrants at London residential addresses, officers recovered cash and about £1million worth of assets including high value watches and paintings.
At a residential address in Gloucestershire, officers seized a number of high value assets including two luxury cars.
Detective Inspector Grant Anderson, of the Modern Slavery Investigation Team, said: “I am delighted that the many months of hard work spent putting this investigation together has resulted in the arrests of six people and, more importantly, that we’ve been able to recover and support vulnerable victims.”
Detective Superintendent Tara McGovern, of the Modern Slavery Investigation Team, said: “We are committed to protecting the vulnerable and bringing those responsible for exploiting others to justice. I hope this investigation continues to raise the public’s awareness of this shocking crime and sends a clear message to those involved that we will take robust action.
“The Met will continue to work with partners, including The Salvation Army, to combat human trafficking and modern slavery in order to safeguard those who are most vulnerable. Even during these unprecedented times, we will continue to target organised crime groups who seek to profit from these audacious acts and bring them to justice.”
Director of Anti-trafficking and Modern Slavery for The Salvation Army, Major Kathy Betteridge, said:
“We are really grateful to the police for continuing to prioritise the protection of people being abused through slavery despite all the extra demands currently placed on them as part of their response to the pandemic. This means that we can reach the vulnerable people who urgently need our help.
“Following the operation in London this week, all victims have been offered protective care and specialist support through a Government contract operated by The Salvation Army. This provides vital help and support to adult victims of this pitiless exploitation, which gives them the very best chance to recover through comprehensive specialised services. Support provided by The Salvation Army can include intensive 24/7 support for people with high-level needs as well as safe accommodation, counselling and help with returning home, finances and finding employment.
“Even in these challenging times with coronavirus, The Salvation Army and our partners are doing all we can so that victims have the best care possible, to keep them safe and help them continue their recovery.
“We are helping these vulnerable people as they not only begin to live independently but also supporting them to do this within Government guidelines, to protect them from infection
“If you suspect that you, or someone you have come into contact with may be a victim of modern slavery and in need of help, please call The Salvation Army’s 24-hour confidential referral helpline on 0800 808 3733.”
Communities have an important role to play in recognising modern slavery. If you suspect someone may be a victim of modern slavery, tell someone. You will always be taken seriously and protection and support is available.
To report a suspicion or seek advice contact the Modern Slavery Helpline confidentially on 08000 121 700. This is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.