Thu, 4 May, 2017
Raids in multiple places were carried out in the areas of Blackpool and Preston as part of the ongoing investigation against human traffickers and prostitution. One woman, aged 27 years, was arrested from Station Road in the wee hours. Another 30-year-old man was arrested from Arkwright Road in Preston and one of similar age from the Walton-le-Dale. Similar raids were performed in other areas of Evesham, near Worchester, Gateshead in Northumbria and Blackburn where seven men and a woman were arrested for trafficking conspiracy and exploitation of prostitution for gains. In the places where the raids took place, police also found eight women who were trafficked to the UK from Romania to be sold to brothel owners. All the women were recommended to the support group for help.
It is one of the biggest operations to take place in the country that was led by the Lancashire Constabulary’s human trafficking and modern slavery team, Op Proteus. In a statement released by the Deputy Inspector Mark Vaughton of Op Proteus, he said that the arrests were part of the long-running investigation by their department into the activities of the Romanian based crime groups in the country that are suspected of trafficking women into the country for the purpose of prostitution. He also thanked his colleagues and the National Crime Agency for assisting them and coordinating the multiple raids. He added that this is just one of the phases that saw a number of people being arrested and many women rescued from becoming sex slaves.
Unlike what many people believe, modern slavery is not a thing of the past, and it is still very much existing in the country. Mark urged people to be more proactive and told people to be aware that modern slavery can exist in any place like in rural businesses, massage parlors, nail bars, car washes or in a property near your home. He said that they were committed to removing those individuals from the country who are willing to exploit others for their gains and they have hardworking officers who are always ready to remove any such threats.
Identification of modern slavery can be difficult, but their team has been able to arrest a number of people and successfully prosecuted most of them. Many of the victims who have been rescued are also building their lives by getting the support they need. He urged people to report any suspicious activity about slavery and trafficking to the authorities.
Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner, who has been a part of the investigation and building the intelligence on modern slavery and trafficking offences said that the current operation was successful and shows that it is important to focus their services on human trafficking. The gangs who organize them are highly experienced who make money from exploiting young women and girls. He also applauded the professionalism of the Lancashire officers who make the raid successful. He also pledged to continue such raids to stop similar criminals from carrying out illegal trafficking and to rescue more victims.
For those looking to report any information about human trafficking can contact Crimestoppers online through their website www.crimestoppers-uk.org or call their helpline number on 0800 555 111. Their identity will be kept hidden. In case someone is in immediate danger, they can call 999, or if anyone suspects modern slavery was happening, they can contact the police on 101.
The names and age of all the accused were released to the public. Those arrested were Andra Catalina Amzulin, 27; Razvan Florinel Mitr, 30; Preston and Traian Gavrila, 30; Alexander Peter Baltoiu, 24; Marian Diaconu, 25; Cosmin Dogaru, 28; Marius Ciprian Trasca, 29, Claudiu-nicusor Valescu, 31 were the ones to appear in court along with their lawyers.
All the accused appeared in court on Friday and faced serious charges of arranging and facilitating travel of another person for exploitation under the Modern Slavery Act of 2015. They will also face charges of causing and inciting prostitution for gains. They will stay in custody and will be presented in court on May 22.