12 arrests as South Yorkshire Police lead human trafficking ring operation across UK

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Twelve people have been arrested in raids in the UK and Romania in an operation led by South Yorkshire Police targeting a suspected human trafficking ring.

Investigators believe members of the gang duped victims into thinking they were having a romantic relationship - the so-called "loverboy" method.

Twelve people have been arrested in raids in the UK and Romania in an operation led by South Yorkshire Policetargeting a suspected human trafficking ring.

Twelve people have been arrested in raids in the UK and Romania in an operation led by South Yorkshire Policetargeting a suspected human trafficking ring.

Nine people were arrested in raids across four police areas during the UK stage of the operation on Tuesday, led by the South Yorkshire force.

Searches were carried out in Staffordshire, Norfolk, London and Northumbria.

Two women, aged 23 and 36, and three men, two aged 30 and one aged 34, were arrested in Ilford, east London.

Another two men, aged 38 and 19, were detained at a house in Stoke-on-Trent, a 28-year-old man was held in Norwich, and a 33-year-old man was arrested at a property in Newcastle.

All were arrested on suspicion of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and money laundering.

Another three suspects were detained by authorities in Romania, Europol said.

Read more: Yorkshire human trafficking gang locked up for 'deliberately degrading human beings'
Investigators have so far identified eight potential victims of trafficking - women aged between 18 and 30.

Detective Inspector Claire Mayfield from South Yorkshire Police said: "Protecting the most vulnerable people in our society, including those who have been brought into the country for the sole purpose of exploitation, and identifying offenders involved in this serious crime type, is our absolute priority.

"With the support of our colleagues at the other assisting forces, specialist policing resources and the authorities in Romania, we have been able to significantly disrupt a suspected organised crime group and identify potential offenders.

"A key part of today was also about identifying potential victims of trafficking and providing immediate safeguarding.

"The people we identified today were taken to places of safety where they were offered immediate, practical support. As the investigation progresses, they will be spoken to and offered the relevant long-term support."