Gardai confident of charges after vice crackdown
Gardai are confident that a crackdown on the prostitution trade will result in criminal charges against some of the main organisers of the vice trade here.
Last night officers were sifting through a massive haul of documentation and computer records after they carried out raids on 130 suspected brothels on Tuesday.
More than 200 officers took part in the searches, which were part of Operation Quest and targeted the criminals making huge profits from prostitution.
Senior officers said the main objective in the raids, which they believed was achieved, was to gather evidence to sustain prosecutions against the shadowy figures controlling the brothel network.
The seized evidence will also be examined by the Criminal Assets Bureau to allow the agency to confiscate the cash and property portfolio built up by the organisers from their illegal earnings.
The operation was spearheaded by the Organised Crime Unit but involved several other national squads, including the immigration bureau, whose officers were called in where it was feared the prostitutes had been trafficked into the country and were living in fear of their pimps.
Earlier this year, gardai established direct links between the prostitution trade here and in Northern Ireland.
A similar operation was then carried out by the PSNI, whose officers uncovered 10 brothels and rescued three suspected victims of human trafficking.
Gardai said their policy was to treat women as witnesses or victims unless evidence came to light suggesting direct involvement in organised prostitution.
Among those identified on the premises raided by officers were women who had come here from the UK, eastern Europe and South America.
Operation Quest was first launched by the garda in 2001 and has led to the prosecution and conviction of several major crime figures involved in the sex industry.
In Belfast magistrates' court yesterday, three Polish women, who pleaded guilty to running a brothel in the city, were each handed suspended two-month prison sentences.
The court heard that the three were the only ones involved in what was described as an unsophisticated brothel based at Alfred Street.
Evidence was also given that human trafficking was not a feature in their case and there were no allegations of exploitation.