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Tuesday 25 July 2017

Romanian gang of 15 arrested in prostitution ring probe

Edel Kennedy

CHARGES are expected to be brought against a gang of 15 men accused of trafficking girls from Romania to Ireland to work as prostitutes here.

The gang were arrested in Romania as part of a joint operation with gardai.

They were being questioned last night over allegations of threatening and blackmailing women to work as high-class hookers in Dublin.

Prosecutors said they had identified 10 female victims that had recently been returned to Romania by the gang.

However, they warned the real number of victims -- including women who are still in Ireland and are being forced to work as prostitutes -- is believed to be far higher.

Anti-mafia police in Romania said last night that 15 gang members were currently in custody.

They believed that the prostitution ring was being co-ordinated by a man who is behind bars in Targoviste in southern Romania.

Prosecutors said the girls, who had been shipped to Ireland, had earned the gang huge sums of money by working in a VIP prostitution ring.

The gang are believed to have been earning up to €2.3m per annum from the women.

Raided

The arrests came after police were tipped off as long ago as 2008 and started to investigate the gang.

Romanian officers made the arrests at the same time yesterday as they raided 11 houses in Targoviste.

Prosecutors said all of the women were aged between 19 and 30 and were chosen for their "model good looks".

As part of the investigation police said they had also seized cash and property.

A Romanian police spokesman confirmed that the criminal network of the gang had also drifted into other areas including so-called cyber-crimes as well as money laundering and robbery.

There are also 10 charges of making threats and blackmail relating to an illegal money-lending business that the gang ran.

None of the men have been charged yet.

Charity Ruhama, the main aid body for sex workers in Ireland, helped almost 200 women last year -- up from 161 in 2008.

However, it said this was just the tip of the iceberg, with many more women trapped in the illegal industry.

About one in three of the women Ruhama helped were trafficked into Ireland.

Irish Independent

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