17 arrested in east London dawn raids targeting Romanian sexual exploitation gang

14 November 2019, 07:56

By Megan White

17 people have been arrested in a series of dawn raids across east London by police targeting modern day slavery, sexual exploitation and people trafficking.

14 men and three women, all believed to be Romanian and aged between 17 and 50, have been taken into custody amid an investigation into an organised crime group trafficking women from Romania to work as sex workers in the UK.

LBC's Correspondent Rachael Venables accompanied specialist detectives on the raids.

Officers forced their way into 16 properties in Redbridge, Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Newham, Brentwood and Tower Hamlets.

From these addresses, 17 people were arrested on suspicion of modern slavery, controlling prostitution, Class A drug offences and firearm offences relating to a stungun.

Two of those were already wanted on European arrest warrants.

29 women, also thought to be Romanian and aged from 20 to 40, have been found who are potential victims of trafficking. Police are now working to support them.

In Romania, four properties were raided this morning resulting in the arrest of one man in Constanta.

DCI Richard McDonagh, who leads the Vulnerability Investigations Team, told LBC's Rachael Venables: “We’ve just forced entry to a premises here where we’re looking to arrest individuals involved in the exploitation of women.

“Currently officers are inside the address and establishing whether we’ve got anybody inside the premises at the moment.

“We’ll be looking to make arrests and safeguard any victims that we find given the opportunity to leave this life.

“It’s an address where we believe there’s been exploitation occurring, so actual sex workers active at this location.

“That’s the primary focus here – we’re looking to protect the women.

“In this type of investigation exploitation can occur over a longer-term period and that’s why it’s really important to encourage victims to leave the venue and come away to a reception centre so we can address some of their needs.”

The Romanian Police attaché in the UK said: “Today's operation is another example of our excellent bilateral cooperation. The operation was organised simultaneously in both countries in perfect coordination.

"Romanian police officers working shoulder to shoulder with our British partners is a great achievement, a proof of our mutual permanent support and a great professional reward.

"The Romanian Police is committed to continue its efforts in combating all forms of criminality together with the Metropolitan Police.”