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Huge swoop on prostitution gangs

TEN organised crime gangs who control brothels here were the target of the super raids on 140 addresses. Seven suspects were still being questioned today after the massive cross-border operation which involved over 200 gardai and many more PSNI officers.

Of the three suspects who were arrested in Dublin, two Hungarian women aged in their 20s and described as "brothel managers", remained in garda custody.

An Irishman in his 40s described as "a lackey" was released last night.

The main targets of the intelligence gathering operation were gangs of foreign nationals who have been involved in trafficking women into the country and controlling prostitution.

"We are talking about mainly Eastern European nationals. Gardai have a lot more information about their organisations now than ever before," said a source.

"The seizure of large amounts of documentation, cash, mobile phones and computers means that gardai are now able to get inside these organisations who have operated on a very organised scale here for a number of years," the source added.

The Hungarian women being detained at Dundrum and Store Street Garda stations are being questioned about the organisation of prostitution and were arrested as part of Operation Quest - the gardai's long running investigation into vice.

A further five people are in custody in the North after being arrested yesterday by the PSNI who said three suspected victims of human trafficking have been rescued and taken to places of safety.

These are understood to be eastern European nationals.

Gardai have stressed that the operation was geared towards uncovering the identity of those controlling the brothel keeping and organising the sex trade rather than the women who were working for them.

A number of other national units were also involved including the Criminal Assets Bureau, which took possession of the seized paperwork and computer files, the Organised Crime Unit and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation who are involved in investigating the gangs international money-laundering operations.

Cash

Dozens of brothels were raided in Dublin yesterday while there were also significant operations in towns in Co Kilkenny and Co Laois.

In Limerick, where gardai raided more than 15 properties, gardai found women from the UK, Romania, Hungary and Brazil, who had been working as prostitutes in the city.

In Letterkenny, Co Donegal, gardai swooped on six houses that they suspected of being used as brothels and cash, laptops and documentation were also confiscated there.

But there were raids in virtually every county in the country.

Sources say that foreign gangs started to get "a major foothold" in Ireland after the arrest and jailing of 'King Pimp' Thomas 'TJ' Carroll from Co Carlow who was given an extra decade in a Welsh jail earlier this month for refusing to hand over the proceeds of his multi-million euro crime empire.

Last night, PSNI Detective Superintendent Philip Marshall said: "We are determined to actually do something about this problem. It is not something society should stand for. It is a criminal offence and police do take it seriously."

kfoy@herald.ie


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