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Operation targets criminals involved in trafficking and exploitation

A UK-wide operation targeting those involved in trafficking and exploitation has led to the arrest of at least 25 people and the identification of more than a hundred potential victims.

The week of action, codenamed Operation Hornsman, saw dozens of operations took place across the UK aimed at targeting the criminal networks and individuals behind trafficking and exploitation, and protecting and safeguarding potential victims.

Some of the results included:

  • Two people including a nail bar manager arrested for modern slavery offences in Devon, three potential victims of trafficking identified;
  • Five Albanian nationals arrested for immigration offences in Gloucestershire;
  • A car wash manager arrested for money laundering offences in Cheshire;
  • 14 people arrested for predominantly immigration offences in Wiltshire;
  • A woman arrested for modern slavery and money laundering offences at a residential address in Bath.

Across the UK 103 potential victims were identified.

Additionally a number of businesses are now being investigated for potentially breaching minimum wage regulations.

Co-ordinated by the National Crime Agency’s UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC), the operation involved 33 different agencies, including police forces, Home Office Immigration Enforcement, HMRC and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.

Co-ordinated action also took place in 21 European countries, including Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands. In total more than 100 victims were identified in those three countries.

Martin French, head of the NCA’s UKHTC, said:

“This operation really demonstrates the broad nature of how we take on those involved in trafficking and exploitation. It involved a collaboration between a large number of law enforcement and government agencies, but also NGOs and the charity sector.

“There are criminal networks involved in forcing or coercing people to move across continents, often on the basis of empty or false promises.

“But those victims often end up being exploited in our communities up and down the UK, whether that is through sexual exploitation, domestic servitude or just as cheap labour.

“This is why the response needs be at local, national and international levels. The more intelligence we can build up the more action we can take to target the criminals involved in these horrific crimes and protect the victims.”

If you suspect that modern slavery is taking place please contact police on 101. Information can be passed anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or online at

The Crimestoppers website contains a guide on the signs of labour exploitation and modern slavery.

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