'Child thieves' crime ring targeted

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The Independent Online

A Romanian crime ring suspected of smuggling child thieves into Britain was smashed today following a joint police crackdown.

About 300 police officers executed search warrants at 33 homes in Tandarei, south east Romania, early today.

Police in Romania said 30 people were questioned on suspicion of taking 168 Roma or Gypsy children - aged between seven and 15 - to Britain for "criminal activities".

Pistols, hunting rifles and large sums of money were seized in the house searches and 17 people arrested.

More than 20 officers from the Metropolitan Police took part in the operation.

"The Romanian National Police Organised Crime Unit executed search warrants at 33 addresses in Tandarei, south east Romania," said a Metropolitan Police spokesman.

"The operation is being supported by Metropolitan Police officers from Operation Golf - an investigation into child trafficking."

The spokesman added later: "We believe some of the children may be in the UK and they have been referred to local safeguarding youth boards and other relevant agencies."

Officers continue to share intelligence with Romanian authorities, with 26 Met officers remaining in the country as part of the investigation, he said.