Brothel raids target sophisticated criminals


ANALYSIS:Gangs use well planned anti-surveillance methods to evade detection

THE SERIES of co-ordinated searches by the Garda and PSNI on both sides of the Border is just the beginning of what will need to be a long and painstaking operation if the criminal masterminds being investigated are to be brought to justice.

The gangs involved have been using well planned anti-surveillance methods and changing their routines and modus operandi so often that getting a fix on the extent of their operations and proving their crimes will be difficult.

The goal is to bring criminal charges against the men who control women working in the extensive network of brothels and to confiscate their criminal earnings.

A large number of mobile phones, laptops, hand-held electronic devices and paperwork were seized during yesterday’s operations. Gardaí are hopeful the information from these items will show where gang members deposited or invested their earnings from prostitution.

Paperwork records of lease agreements and a study of telephone and text traffic on the phones will also be studied in an effort to determine the locations of all of the brothels currently being run by the gangs and those which have been under their control in recent times.

Gardaí and the PSNI are also trying to establish the extent to which the women involved had been threatened that their families would be harmed if they tried to run from the gangs they were working for here.

This form of intimidation is often the most effective in trapping women in prostitution after they have been lured here by the promise of jobs. It is facilitated by the fact that many of the foreign gangs operating here have contacts in the victims’ countries of origin.

While the brothels targeted yesterday were being operated from apartments, houses and in some cases hotels, Garda sources said the bulk of the operation was targeted against very covert and secret brothels being run from apartments.

The gangs controlling most of these women had advertised their services on “escort” websites, using pay-as-you-go mobile phones which they discarded after short periods to frustrate Garda efforts to trace the owners.

For the same reason, the women often only operated from a particular rented apartment for short periods before new premises were rented.

Men ringing numbers on escort sites were often only given directions to the general location of a brothel. They were not provided with the specific address until they had been sighted on the street – often from other apartments. It was only when gang members or lookouts had satisfied themselves the “clients” were not undercover gardaí that they were contacted by mobile phone again and given the specific address of the brothel.