Gardai in North Cork have this week rescued three Eastern European men whom they believe were being held against their will by a criminal gang based in the area who were sending them out to work on farms and factories.
Gardai from Charleville and Mallow backed by up members of the Armed Support Unit and the Garda Dog Unit raided two houses, one in the Charleville area and one in the Churchtown area, early on Sunday morning as part of an investigation into human trafficking.
Gardai had been contacted by Welsh police after a young Eastern European woman went into a police station in Wales late on Saturday night to say that her brother was being held against his will by a group of her countrymen at a location in North Cork.
Gardai quickly put together a search party and some 25 officers raided the two houses simultaneously where, with the aid of an interpreter, they established that three men, all aged in their mid-20s, were being held against their will.
Gardai established that the Eastern European gang had confiscated the men's passports and had put them working as labourers on local farms or general operatives in local factories while providing them with bed and board in a number of rented houses.
Gardai also established that gang members would accompany the young men to a local bank where they were forced to withdraw money and to hand over to the gang as they had been threatened by gang members and were in fear for their lives.
Investigators are trying to establish how long the three men have been in Ireland but they believe that they may have been smuggled into the country in vans by gang members who regularly travel between their home in Eastern Europe and Ireland via Cherbourg to Rosslare ferries.
The three men removed from the houses in the Charleville and Churchtown areas were this week taken to a safe place and interviewed by gardai who also seized a large quantity of documentation, a small quantity of cocaine and a firearm in the search of the two premises.
The Garda Press Office said in a statement that no arrests have been made to date but that the investigation is ongoing and it's understood that gardai are liaising through Interpol with police in Eastern Europe to establish if any of the gang members have convictions there.