Members of a gang suspected of trafficking women into the UK and forcing them to work as prostitutes were arrested in dawn raids in east London today.
Police said a total of 17 people - 14 men and three women - aged between 17 and 50, were arrested following raids at addresses in Redbridge, Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Newham, Brentwood and Tower Hamlets.
They were arrested on suspicion of modern slavery, controlling prostitution, Class A drug offences and firearm offences relating to a stungun.
The Met Police said 29 women aged 20 to 40, all potential victims of human trafficking, had been rescued from the addresses and taken to safety.
At the same time as the raids, warrants were also executed in Romania and led to the arrest of one man.
The operation, dubbed Operation Kelang, involved the Met Police’s Central Specialist Crime - Vulnerability Investigations Team, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the Romanian Police and Prosecutors, the Romanian Embassy, Eurolpol and Eurojust.
It was also supported by several charities and organisations supporting victims of modern slavery, including the Church of England and Refuge.
Detective Chief Inspector Richard McDonagh, from the Met’s Modern Slavery and Kidnap Unit, said: “The Met recognises the seriousness of modern slavery and the devastation it brings to people’s lives.
“We have an investigative capability across Frontline Policing and have invested in specialist resources through our Central Specialist Crime – Vulnerability Investigations Team which tackles complex cases. This allows us to target offenders and support victims.
“Today’s synchronised operational activity spanned 16 addresses in east London and four addresses in Romania with the aim of, in one fell swoop, dismantling an organised crime network and providing support to the victims.”
The operation was also praised by Dan Mihalache, Romanian Ambassador in the UK and the Romanian Police attaché in the UK added: “Today's operation is another example of our excellent bilateral cooperation.
“The operation was organised simultaneously in both countries in perfect coordination. Romanian police officers working shoulder to shoulder with our British partners is a great achievement, a proof of our mutual permanent support and a great professional reward.
“The Romanian Police is committed to continue its efforts in combating all forms of criminality together with the Metropolitan Police.”