Around 100 officers from the National Crime Agency have today (Wednesday 3 March) been involved in a UK-wide operation targeting suspected members of a Western Balkan organised crime group.
20 people were arrested this morning at addresses in Birmingham, Reading, Blackburn, Sunderland and London as part of an eight-month long investigation led by Thames Valley Police into the supply of drugs, fraud, money laundering and modern slavery offences.
One of the suspected heads of the group – a 36-year old man – was arrested by NCA officers at an address on Pershore Road in Birmingham on suspicion of conspiracy to produce and supply class B drugs.
The NCA also led raids on locations in the north west, north east and London. Two arrests were made by NCA officers in Sunderland, where two working cannabis factories were found.
A further cannabis factory was discovered at an address in Southgate, North London, where two Albanian nationals were arrested, and another arrest was also made at a location in Blackburn, where investigators found a premises they think had previously been used for cannabis production.
Specialist NCA officers – including dog handlers and forensic officers – have worked alongside colleagues from the South Eastern Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU) and Thames Valley Police as part of the investigation.
Deputy Director Andrea Wilson from the NCA said:
“Today’s activity highlights just how seriously we are taking the threat from Western Balkan organised crime groups. They are involved in various forms of serious and organised criminality, including the trafficking and supply of class A drugs, organised immigration crime and corruption.
“Identifying and targeting these high harm networks requires a whole-system law enforcement approach, and anyone involved in widespread organised crime should take notice that the NCA and partners will do all we can to disrupt their activity and ensure they face justice”.
Detective Inspector Natalie Hall, of the Thames Valley Police Serious Organised Crime Unit, said:
“Thames Valley Police officers have been supported by the NCA, SEROCU and the Home Office this morning in order to carry out these warrants.
“This partnership working is vital in identifying and disrupting the most harmful individuals and organised crime groups in order to protect our communities.
“Investigating this type of criminality can be complex and time-consuming and this particular operation has been a culmination of months of hard work by officers. Therefore, I am pleased that we have been able to carry out these warrants and make a number of arrests.
“Further, I hope that this serves as a warning to those in the community who are involved in the supply and distribution of drugs as well as the exploitation of people, that we know who you are, where you are and we are committed to bringing you to justice.
“If anyone has any information or suspicions about drug supply in their area, please make a report to Thames Valley Police by calling 101 or online.
“Alternatively, if you would prefer to remain anonymous you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online too.”