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Three arrests and cash seized in cannabis farm human trafficking investigation

Three men have been arrested in Birmingham as part of a National Crime Agency investigation into modern slavery and human trafficking.

The trio were detained yesterday morning (17 August) following a series of raids in the city centre and Nechells areas, all related to the discovery of a cannabis farm by Cleveland Police in 2021.

At an address in Essex Street, Birmingham, a 35-year-old man was held on suspicion of holding a person in slavery or servitude, production and supply of a controlled drug and cultivating cannabis. A further 26-year-old man was arrested for possession of drugs and money laundering. An estimated £25,000 cash was recovered from the address.

At an address in Nechells Park Road a 51-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of arranging the travel of another person with a view to exploitation.

NCA senior investigating officer Paul Boniface said:

“Our investigation is focused on a crime group suspected of trafficking mainly Vietnamese migrants into the UK illegally.

“The victims would be transported often hundreds of miles across the country and then put to work in cannabis farms.

“This type of exploitation is often hidden in plain sight. As part of our investigations we have come across cannabis farms operating in residential streets, or near busy retail premises. I would ask anyone who sees anything suspicious that they may think may be connected to modern slavery to report it.”

Rob Richardson, from the NCA’s Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit said:

“Many victims of modern slavery in the UK have been trafficked from overseas – frequently from eastern Europe, south east Asia, and Africa – and their exploitation often begins during their journey.

“Human trafficking is different from people smuggling in that victims may be forced, coerced or tricked into travelling, rather than willingly making the journey, but some of those who begin their journeys willingly will find themselves under the control of traffickers. Those who arrive here illegally are always more vulnerable.”

Victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished or unkempt, and have few or no personal effects. This includes regularly wearing the same items of clothing. They may appear to be under the control or influence of others, rarely being allowed to travel on their own.

If you suspect someone to be a victim of Modern Slavery, contact the 24/7 Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700, or your local police on 101. Your information could save a life. In an emergency always call 999.

The NCA leads and supports investigations into modern slavery in collaboration with partners including police forces, regional organised crime units and international law enforcement.

We undertake national activity to attack the trafficking business model, working with the wider public sector, private sector and NGOs to safeguard victims and prevent opportunities for trafficking.

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