37 held in gangmaster raids

Click to follow
The Independent Online

More than 30 people were today arrested in a series of dawn raids by police investigating the employment of illegal immigrants by gangmasters.

In an operation led by Norfolk Police, a total of 37 people were arrested in raids in East Anglia and Scotland.

A spokesman for Norfolk Police said six people were arrested on suspicion of facilitating the entry of illegal immigrants into the UK and on suspicion of laundering money.

A spokesman said the co–ordinated raids - code-named Operation Absent - had involved officers from Norfolk Police, Grampian Police, the Metropolitan Police, Cambridgeshire Police and the Immigration Service.

"The operation was to tackle the exploitation and influx of illegal immigrants into the UK," said the spokesman.

"Those arrested include a Ukrainian man in his early 40s from King's Lynn, who is believed to be one of the biggest illegal gangmasters in the country.

"Another man, also believed to be Ukrainian, in his early 40s from the King's Lynn area of Norfolk was also arrested.

"In the Aberdeen area, 31 workers were arrested and are subsequently being interviewed by the immigration services."

Detective Inspector Paul Cunningham, who is leading the investigation, said: "This is one of the biggest operations of its kind in the Eastern region. Our aim was to stop immigrants, some legal, some illegal, from being abused.

"These people are modern day slaves, working 15-hour days, living in overcrowded unsuitable conditions and paid a pittance for their trouble whilst their gangmasters live in luxury and launder the profits."