COUNTY NEWS: Arrests in human trafficking and prostitution police investigation

Police have targeted an organised crime group suspected of trafficking women from South East Asia into prostitution in hotels near Gatwick Airport.

A woman is arrested in Walton as part of the police operation. Photo by Sussex Police
A woman is arrested in Walton as part of the police operation. Photo by Sussex Police

Yesterday (Wednesday June 10), 40 Sussex Police officers raided homes in Surrey and South East London.

A Sussex Police spokesperson said four people have been arrested on suspicion of human trafficking, controlling a prostitute for gain, and money laundering.

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A 43-year-old man and a 45-year-old woman were arrested at an address in Walton-on-Thames, and a 42-year-old woman was arrested at an address in Esher.

A 38-year-old man was arrested at an address in Orpington.

The police spokesperson said: “Specialist search officers are currently at the addresses and officers have seized a number of items which include mobile phones and computers which will be examined as part of the investigation.

All four are currently in custody for interview and further enquiries,”

Chief inspector Andy Kundert said: “Today has seen the arrest phase of an ongoing investigation into the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable women from South East Asia for prostitution in hotels around Gatwick but also across the South East.

“Officers and partners from a number of organisations have been working closely together over a number of months to identify those responsible for these offences and to identify victims.

“We are currently examining more than 400 hotel bookings made by men via text from two websites.

“We believe there has been money laundering to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds from the proceeds of this activity.

“We have already traced at least ten women who have been involved and enquiries are continuing to trace and talk to others, solely as witnesses in what we believe was an organised scheme to bring them into to the country and exploit them for financial purposes.

“This investigation follows valuable information we have received from the hotels involved, with whom we work increasingly closely to help combat any crime of all kinds.

“We are also working with the charity A21 who specialise in working with and assisting victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. Representatives from this charity and police officers from Gatwick are ensuring that we have put in place safeguarding arrangements for any women involved.

“The operation will continue until we are satisfied that we have brought to justice everyone involved in these offences and even more importantly, ensured that those safeguarding arrangements are in place.”

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