On 21 April, Europol supported British and Slovak law enforcement authorities in dismantling a large organised crime group involved in the trafficking in human beings. Based in the UK and Slovakia, the criminal gang is suspected of trafficking human beings, including children, for exploitation in forced labour and social benefit fraud. During this week's coordinated action day, 14 house searches were conducted, 50 potential victims of trafficking were safeguarded, and 24 suspects arrested.
Members of the organised crime group allegedly recruited significant numbers of Slovak nationals using promises of well-paid jobs in the UK. The victims were subsequently trafficked to the UK where they were exploited.
UK authorities initiated the investigation after receiving intelligence on an extensive labour exploitation network from the Human Anti-Trafficking Unit of the Slovak National Department for Combating Illegal Migration. This initial enquiry launched more than 10 linked investigations in different areas of the UK, which were managed by regional police teams reporting to the National Crime Agency.
Europol provided support throughout the investigation by analysing intelligence, organising operational meetings and facilitating the exchange of information between British and Slovak authorities. On the action day, Europol deployed mobile offices and forensic analysis tools to cross-check data in real time. Support from Europol and the Slovak authorities was assessed as critical to the success of this operation.
Caroline Young, Deputy Director of the National Crime Agency's Organised Crime Command said: "Today's coordinated activity highlights the close collaboration between the National Crime Agency, local police forces, the Gangmasters Licencing Agency, Regional Organised Crime Units and our international partners, Europol and the Slovak police, to investigate labour exploitation and human trafficking within the UK. These close working relationships help us to tackle the organised crime groups who think they can exploit people for profit. We will continue to work together, sharing intelligence and knowledge to hold offenders to account and safeguard victims".
Europol's Deputy Director Operations, Wil van Gemert said: 'This action sends the clear message that Europol and its partners are determined to pursue criminals involved in human trafficking. Europol strongly supports EU Member States' investigations in this area, and we will continue our efforts in fighting this crime. Forced labour and human trafficking violate the human rights and dignity of millions of people. By working together, and by promoting fast and effective international law enforcement cooperation, we can eradicate this form of modern slavery'.