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Man arrested on suspicion of human trafficking, brothel keeping and money laundering in Belfast

A 27-year-old woman has also been arrested in the Antrim area on suspicion of controlling prostitution.

Image: PA Images

A 57-YEAR-OLD man has been arrested in the Belfast area on suspicion of human trafficking for the purpose sexual exploitation, controlling prostitution, brothel keeping and money laundering.

A search was also carried out and a number of electronic devices were seized.

A 27-year-old woman has also been arrested in the Antrim area on suspicion of controlling prostitution, brothel keeping and money laundering.

Both of the suspects have been taken to Musgrave Serious Crime Suite for questioning.

A further five men aged 20, 33, 33, 36 and 52 have been arrested at locations across Northern Ireland on suspicion of paying for sexual services.

They have been taken into custody and are assisting detectives with their enquiries.

These arrests are part of a PSNI investigation into human trafficking for sexual exploitation in Northern Ireland which has been ongoing for eight months.

“Sexual exploitation is often an unseen crime – often victims are transported to clients’ properties so there may not be the obvious case of men coming and going to the one property,” PSNI Detective Inspector Mark Bell said.

Furthermore, many victims can be afraid to speak out or may be being held captive.

Bell warned some people who are subject to this kind of exploitation may not think of themselves as victims.

“They may be vulnerable and have been manipulated into having sex for money, often controlled and coerced into passing over some of the profits to another person who ultimately lines their pockets as a result of the exploitation,” he said. 

Bell has appealed to victims to come forward to police.

“I want you to get the help and support that you need,” he said. 

“Perhaps you are in this position but don’t think that you are being exploited. I’d urge you to have a think about the people around you and if there is anyone who is pushing you in a certain direction or financially benefiting from your activities, please make contact with the police.”

Warning signs

Bell added that he wants the public to be aware of the signs to look out for. 

Maybe you have concern for a friend or someone you know who is being put under pressure to provide sexual services and made to feel that they have no choice.
They may be keeping anti-social hours and be driven around by someone they won’t let you get to know.
There could be obvious signs that the person is being controlled, such as a lack of access to their money.

Since the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 legislation was enacted in 2015, the PSNI has made 33 arrests for human trafficking.

Over the last three years, it has also investigated 182 potential victims of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation.

“Human trafficking is unacceptable,” Bell said.

“The criminals responsible prey on vulnerable people, violate their human rights and exploit them for their own selfish gains,” he said.

“Unlike drugs or firearms which are only bought or sold once, a victim can be sexually exploited over and over again, which could generate a continuous source of income for criminals.”

Anyone who has any concerns relating to this matter is being asked to contact 999 if it’s an emergency, or 101.

The Modern Slavery Helpline can be contacted on 08000 121 700.

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