LONDON (AP) – London police have arrested eight people suspected of being part of an international human trafficking gang with ties to Romania.
Police said Wednesday the five men and three women were arrested in east London Tuesday by the Modern Slavery and Kidnap Unit. They are being questioned.
Police say 33 victims of human trafficking were found at four addresses that were raided. These included five children. All have been transferred to what police say is a safe place.
In addition, police say three men and one woman were arrested in Romania in conjunction with Romanian police.
Dan Mihalache, Romania’s ambassador in Britain, said the arrests send “a strong message against any form of exploitation and reiterates the Romanian authorities are committed to fighting modern slavery in close co-operation with European partners.”
In Romania, prosecutors said seven homes in the eastern part of the country had been raided in connection with the trafficking gang.
The government’s Directorate for the Investigation of Organized Crime and Terrorism said 12 people were suspect of setting up the trafficking ring in 2015. It targeted low-income Romanians who were taken to Britain to work as unskilled workers mainly on building sites.
The Romanian officials said “hundreds” of people were taken to Britain and abused. Their travel documents were taken away and they were forced to work.
Officials said the traffickers made 210,000 pounds ($275,000), in part by paying the trafficking victims a far lower wage than they received for their work in construction. The victims were also kept in poor conditions and not properly fed.
During the raids in Romania, police found six cars, about 13,000 pounds, 126,000 lei ($31,500), laptops, mobile phones, gold, and British bank cards.
The suspects have not been charged or identified.