Police today smashed a suspected Russian mafia gang that ran a prostitution and trafficking racket from an apartment block in west London.
Detectives swooped on 13 addresses in dawn raids and rescued nine women they say were trafficked into the UK and forced into prostitution by the gang.
Six people were arrested – including four Russian nationals – after raids at luxury addresses in west London including Chelsea Harbour and a gated estate behind Stamford Bridge football ground.
Detectives from Scotland Yard’s Human Trafficking and Prostitution Unit launched today’s raids after a 12 week covert surveillance operation.
They say the gang ran a highly organised and complex network of brothels along the lines of a business, complete with enforcers and an accountant.
Women were ‘recruited’ from Eastern Europe and promised jobs in the leisure industry in London working in posts such as receptionists at hotels.
But once in the UK they were forced to work as prostitutes with the threat that their families would be targeted if they refused.
At the centre of the business was a block of nine flats in Warwick Road which the group rented and operated as a brothel.
Each of the flats was occupied by a woman who was forced to work for the gang.
Police estimate the block of flats could generate up to £20,000 a day in earnings.
Detectives seized £75,000 in cash today from two of the suspects’s addresses.
The suspected ringleader was a 44-year-old Russian woman who was arrested at an address on the luxury Brompton Park Crescent estate in Chelsea.
Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland, of the Human Trafficking and Prostitution Unit, said: “Today we have targeted an organised group of criminals who have been profiting from the abuse of scores of women.
“This operation is in part a result of victims having the courage to come forward about the abuse they are suffering. I urge other victims of trafficking to phone our hotline where we have translators and specially trained staff awaiting their call. ”
He added: “This was organised and run on the lines of a business with elements that arranged the recruitment in eastern Europe, the advertising and the website and the accounting.”
Three of the Russian nationals were in the UK illegally.
Following the raids the nine women, who were from Russia, Bulgaria and Latvia, were taken to a care centre to receive support.
Five people were arrested on trafficking, controlling prostitution and money laundering offences. These included two women from Chelsea, aged 44, and 33, a 31-year-old woman from Fulham, a 27-year-old man from Palmers Green and a 30-year-old woman from Palmers Green.
A sixth person – a 37 year-old man from Beckton – was also arrested in Essex.
All are currently in custody at a west London police station.
Police said the operation was the first carried out under the European Communities Against Trafficking (ECAT) Project, a scheme part-funded by the European Commission.
Please note that this sex trafficking gang was uncovered by police surveillance work, not by a tip-off from a mythical ‘saviour john’; the traffickers were making £20,000 a day, that’s a large number of men, none of whom gave a shit whether they were raping a trafficked woman or not (for a good indication of how little a shit johns give, read the Invisible Men tumblr blog – TRIGGER WARNING because it is potentially disturbing).
Also note the control the traffickers had over these women, they posed as a recruitment agency, they knew who those women’s families were, they used violence and the threat of violence against those women’s families to control them.
Also note the infrastructure involved here, this was an organised, cross-borders network, not one-off, isolated, individual cases.
This case provides very clear evidence that trafficking is a systematic institution, not one off incidences of ‘bad luck’ or ‘bad choice’ on the women’s part, as claimed by various sex industry advocates who insist trafficking is rare or a myth.