Celebrity hangout shut down by vice squad

A lap dancing club known as a celebrity hangout has been shut down by vice squad police who said it was an underground brothel.

Officers swooped on the Capricorn Club, in London's West End, last night after a six-month undercover operation.

They arrested five men and two women as they raided the Goodge Street night-spot and eight other addresses across the capital and Essex.

Officers seized £26,000 in cash, several wraps of cocaine, a knife and a knuckle-duster and questioned 18 women of various nationalities.

The club hit the headlines when Rolling Stones legend Ronnie Wood reportedly met his 20-year-old Russian girlfriend Ekaterina Ivanova there last year.

Detective Inspector John Anderson said the club was popular with City workers and was known as a place where sex and drugs were freely available.

He said: "It's hard to believe that in the middle of a well-known area like Goodge Street, these shady dealings were blatantly going on.

"This type of criminal activity is a nuisance and a blight on the community who live and work in the area.

"Now this club has been shut down, the prostitution that went on has ceased and those running the club have lost a lucrative and immoral source of income."

The operation by the Met's clubs and vice unit, codenamed Vermilion, revealed sex was sold for up to £250 within the club.

Clients who wanted to go elsewhere would pay up to £300 to visit a hotel and also had to buy a bottle of house champagne for £135.

Undercover investigators also discovered cocaine was available in the club on request.

They found the club boasted a professional client base, largely made up of wealthy City and white collar workers.

The women who worked there came from countries including France, Portugal, Brazil, Albania, Jamaica and Britain.

Strippers and prostitutes paid a percentage of the fee to the club for each "service" and were allowed to keep the rest.

Detectives believe those running the club were making tens of thousands of pounds every week.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said three men, aged 45, 63 and 69, were arrested at the club, where cocaine and cash were found. The knife and knuckle-duster were found in a car outside.

A 44-year-old man was arrested in Holloway, north London, and a 55-year-old man was held in Stansted.

A woman in her 50s was arrested in Mitcham, south London, and a 49-year-old woman was held in Hendon, north west London.

The spokesman said all seven remained in custody today at a central London police station.

Around £24,000 and more drugs were found at addresses in Bow and the Isle of Dogs, both in east London, linked to two of the men suspects.