Five held in suspected brothel raid

Officers raided a Chinese herbalist today suspected of being run as a brothel in direct view of a busy city centre police station.

The joint operation between Northumbria Police and the UK Border Agency involved around 50 officers, saw five people arrested on suspicion of sex trafficking and rescued two women allegedly being forced to work as prostitutes.

Two white men believed to be customers were also lead away from the Chinese Medical Centre, Pilgrim Street, Newcastle.

The shop, in direct view of and less than 100 yards away from the city's main police station, advertises massages, Chinese Viagra and treatments to boost sex drive in its window.

The UKBA said those suspected of being involved in sex trafficking and the rescued women were Chinese.

Officers led out a respectable-looking silver-haired man in handcuffs, and separately, a woman in her 20s in glasses.

Elsewhere in the city, police arrested two others and a simultaneous raid in Foyle Street, Sunderland, saw a woman held for questioning.

It was later confirmed two men aged 63 and 39 and three women aged 39, 28 and 23 were arrested. The two women believed to be forced into prostitution will be given help before an assessment is made of what to do with them.

Andy Radcliffe, of the UK Border Agency, said: "Today's operation follows an investigation into the suspected trafficking of foreign nationals into the UK sex trade."

Mr Radcliffe, who led the agency's Criminal and Financial Investigations Immigration team which was behind the raid, added: "Those arrested remain in police custody and will be questioned throughout the rest of the day."

Immigration Minister Damian Green said: "Raids like this show the UKBA plays an important role in tackling gangs who exploit people for financial gain.

"We have a strong record of supporting victims and through tough enforcement are stopping the UK becoming a safe haven for human traffickers who trade on misery.

"The new trafficking strategy will be published shortly which, supported by the creation of the new National Crime Agency, will further improve our capability to intervene at the border."