UK: Police raids over online brothels

Fifteen people arrested as part of an operation targeting brothels operating via the internet in central London are still being questioned by police.

The arrests were made when more than 100 officers searched 19 premises.

Police suspect that those arrested are part of a criminal network involved in prostitution and people-trafficking.

It is alleged the network operates by trafficking women from abroad, the majority from Thailand, and then coercing them to work as prostitutes.

Up to 110 officers are involved in Operation Gib, led by the Metropolitan Police with support from Surrey Constabulary and Norfolk Constabulary.

Police believe criminals have been using an internet escort agency as a front for organised prostitution.

It is believed that the network, which police have been monitoring for about four months, has been running the women on their own but also acting on behalf of other pimps selling on their women, police have said.

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A police raid on a brothel in London

Police said they hoped to rescue an estimated 60 foreign women who they believe had been forced into prostitution.

By 0900 BST on Sunday, 30 women had been taken to a specialist centre staffed with interpreters, health workers and officers trained in sexual offences interview techniques.

Ch Supt Ian Dyson from the Metropolitan Police said: “It’s too early to give any clear indication of the state that the women were in.

“What we can say is the exploitation takes a variety of forms and while there may be no evidence that might emerge of physical violence being used, what is clear, and we are certain of, is that there’s been a significant financial exploitation of all the women involved in this case.”

Plainclothed officers carried out searches in the Paddington area of London and at another address in Surrey.

‘Biggest of its type’

A Met spokesman said three men aged 31, 32, and 25 and one women aged 35 had been arrested on suspicion of trafficking into and within the UK, controlling prostitution for gain and money laundering offences.

Another 11 people were arrested at addresses in central London in connection with trafficking within the UK and controlling prostitution.

Mr Dyson said: “For us it’s been a very successful culmination of a three or four month operation which will continue today, tomorrow and into next week.”

He added the operation was the “biggest of its type” against brothels operating via a website and that internet prostitution was a growing problem.



Published: 2008/04/20 16:18:06 GMT



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