Three arrested in large-scale modern slavery operation
Three men have been arrested on suspicion of modern slavery offences following a large-scale operation by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) at a farm in North London on Wednesday (July 8).
The MPS said “sophisticated tactics” were deployed to carry out the search warrant, including the use of an armoured truck to gain entry to the site, which had “numerous security measures installed”.
A total of 11 adults were found inside the premises, which is located on a semi-industrial site in Crews Hill, Enfield. They are being supported by specially-trained officers.
The force said around £75,000 in cash has been seized and a “comprehensive search” was ongoing. The three men arrested were taken to a North London police station where they remain in custody.
More than 150 people were involved in the operation, including around 100 officers from the MPS North Area Basic Command Unit. They were joined by colleagues from HM Revenue and Customs, London Fire Brigade, Immigration, Enfield Council, Environment Agency and the National Food Crime Unit.
The operation forms part Project Aidant – an initiative being coordinated by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA). It aims to identify and respond to the changing modern slavery and human trafficking (MSHT) threat as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Detective Chief Inspector Richard McDonagh, from MPS Central Specialist Crime, said: “This activity forms part of an investigation into the unregulated distribution of food from this site. It is suspected that numerous victims have been exploited for the sake of forced labour. It was crucial police intervention took place in order to protect those we believe are being exploited and arrest those suspected of forcing them into labour.
“This operation took place at a semi-industrial site, which brings its own hazards. The planning has been meticulous and it was only possible with the support of an extensive partnership network and I am grateful to all our partners for their support.
“Victims of modern slavery rarely see themselves as such, so it’s important that where offences are suspected every effort is made to prevent further exploitation. We have specialist officers and support networks who will provide the necessary care to the victims we have identified today.
“Modern slavery and human trafficking are often hidden in plain sight. We need the public to recognise the signs and report their suspicions to the Modern Slavery Helpline or the police.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel added: “Through the hard work and cooperation of law enforcement and immigration agencies, we have helped to disrupt a gang suspected of the most heinous exploitation and trafficking of vulnerable people.
“We will not stop in our commitment to tackle these abhorrent crimes by bringing perpetrators to justice using the full weight of the law and ensuring that victims get the help they need.”
Rob Richardson, head of the Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit at the NCA, said tackling modern slavery was one of its “highest priorities”.
“ The NCA, alongside the GLAA, is leading a law enforcement intensification period across the UK, including London, to identify and respond to the changing modern slavery and human trafficking threat picture as a result of Covid-19,” he said.
“It is likely that restrictions on movement and activities are having a notable impact on the MSHT threat in the UK. There have been anecdotal reports of displacement from public-facing sectors that have been closed as a result of government measures, such as car washes and nail bars, to high-risk sectors of agriculture and the wider food supply chain such as this factory.
“Since 2017, the NCA has led a series of multi-agency operational intensifications on different aspects of the MSHT threat, which has resulted in over 770 arrests and the safeguarding of over 1,200 potential victims.”
GLAA senior investigating officer Jennifer Baines said the successful operation demonstrates the need for “targeted partnership working to identify, disrupt and dismantle the organised criminal networks exploiting vulnerable workers”.
She added: “Modern slavery and labour abuse sadly exist in industries across the UK, so it is really important for the public to be aware of the most common signs of exploitation and report their concerns to us or our colleagues in law enforcement.”
A Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN) (London) spokesperson said: “By working in partnership, sharing intelligence lawfully and efficiently, the GAIN aims to ensure that government agencies along with police will help reduce the risk, threat and harm from serious and organised crime, in the most cost effective way. Today’s action follows months of collaborative hard work by GAIN who are dedicated to dismantling crime networks which benefit from inflicting misery on communities.”