TWO women are to be deported to Sweden after they were arrested during raids on brothels across Greater Belfast.
The raids were carried out during a joint operation by the PSNI and Swedish police against human trafficking.
The searches, which saw two potential victims rescued, were carried out by the PSNI’s Organised Crime Branch on Thursday.
The suspects – Aura Gabriela Anghel, 20, and Ancota Schwarz, 27 – who are both Romanian nationals with addresses at Malone Grove in Belfast, appeared before Belfast Crown Court.
During Friday afternoon’s legal proceedings, both women agreed to be deported to Sweden to face charges on foot of European Arrest Warrants obtained by Swedish police.
A defence lawyer told Judge Gordon Kerr QC that Anghel and Schwarz consented to the deportation, but that they will “vigorously contest” a charge of aggravated procuring once there.
Asked by the judge if they understood that agreeing to be deported meant they lost the right to appeal the order and that they would be extradited immediately, both women replied: “Yes.”
They will now be flown to Stockholm, where the legal proceedings will continue.
The PSNI and Swedish police have been working together for months as part of Operation Burgrave.
A number of items including documents, phones and computers were removed from the Belfast properties which were searched and are now undergoing detailed examination by investigators.
Potential victims – a number in Sweden and the two rescued in Northern Ireland – have all been taken to places of safety to be interviewed by specially trained officers.
The officer in charge of the PSNI Organised Crime Branch investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Douglas Grant, praised the multi-agency approach which also involved authorities in Romania.
“The Joint Investigation Team agreement between the UK and Sweden was reached with the assistance of PPS prosecutors and has enabled our teams of officers to progress inquiries and activity more quickly and effectively,” he said.
“Much work remains to be progressed, but we believe the action in Northern Ireland, Sweden and Romania has provided important momentum to our collective efforts.
“We believe we have halted the activities of an organised crime gang involved in controlling prostitution and human trafficking in Northern Ireland, Sweden and Romania.”
Local investigations will continue, with detectives also looking into suspected money laundering.
Operation Burgrave has been assisted by Europol, and part-funded by Eurojust – the EU agency set up to promote co-ordination between member states in relation to serious and organised crime.
Eurojust, the EU agency set up to promote co-ordination between member states in relation to serious and organised crime, has partly funded the investigation.
It was also supported by Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency
A spokesman for Eurojust added: “Eurojust is pleased to have assisted in the co-ordination of judicial and police actions through the arranging of a Joint Investigation Team Agreement between the Kingdom of Sweden and the United Kingdom.
“This has facilitated the investigations into cross-border criminality and led to a successful conclusion.”
A spokesman for Europol said: “Europol’s contribution to this pan-European trafficking case included the provision of operational analytical support, cross-match reports and participation in co-ordination meetings. Europol continues to support the operation with the aim of identifying the scope of organised criminal activity.”