Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland-Sweden trafficking probe arrests

Two women have been arrested and two potential victims of human trafficking rescued after a number of searches in greater Belfast.

The operation, on Thursday, was part of a joint investigation being carried out by the PSNI and police in Sweden.

A spokesperson said officers from both countries have been working together on Operation Burgrave for months.

They said it was targeting a crime group suspected of controlling prostitution and human trafficking.

Swedish police have obtained European arrest warrants for the suspects and, subject to court approval, they will be flown to Stockholm to face charges there.

The suspects, aged 27 and 20, are due to appear at Belfast Crown Court later on Friday.

The PSNI investigation will continue while legal proceedings are conducted in Sweden.

A number of items including documents, phones and computers have been removed for detailed examination by investigators.

Police said the two women who were rescued, who they have described as potential victims of human trafficking, have been taken to a place of safety where they are being interviewed by specially trained officers

Detectives in Northern Ireland are also investigating suspected money laundering.

The officer in charge of the PSNI Organised Crime Branch investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Douglas Grant, said: "Working with law enforcement colleagues in various parts of Europe, we believe we have halted the activities of an organised crime gang involved in controlling prostitution and human trafficking in Northern Ireland, Sweden and Romania.

"Much work remains to be progressed but we believe the action in Northern Ireland, Sweden and Romania has provided important momentum to our collective efforts."