POLICE have smashed a number of brothels during planned raids across the Greater Belfast area.
Two women have been arrested after a number of premises were raided across Greater as part of ‘Operation Burgrave’ – a joint operation by the PSNI and Swedish police against human trafficking.
The searches, which also saw two potential victims rescued, were carried out by the PSNI’s Organised Crime Branch on Thursday.
The suspects, aged 20 and 27, are due to appear before Belfast Crown Court on Friday afternoon.
Swedish police have obtained European Arrests Warrants for them and, subject to court approval, they will be flown to Stockholm to face charges there.
The PSNI and Swedish police have been working together for months.
Detective Chief Inspector Douglas Grant of the PSNI’s Organised Crime Branch, who was in charge of the operation, said: “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.”
A number of items including documents, phones and computers have now been removed for detailed examination by investigators.
As well as the two potential victims in Northern Ireland, a number have also been rescued in Sweden.
They have all been taken to places of safety to be interviewed by specially trained officers.
Added DCI Grant: “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.
“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.”
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.
The PSNI and Swedish police have also been liaising with law enforcement authorities in Romania.
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.”