Police arrest 31 in organised crime operation
More than 30 people have been arrested in the Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth areas following a police operation tackling organised crime.
Norfolk and Suffolk Police supported the investigation led by the joint Cyber Intelligence and Serious Crime Directorate which began in late 2016.
A 49-year-old man from Lowestoft was among the people arrested and charged with fraud and proceeds of crime offences, with a 37-year-old man from Great Yarmouth arrested following a European arrest warrant for offences committed in Lithuania, and a 39-year-old man, also from Great Yarmouth, also arrested for breaching a deportation order.
The operation examined modern day slavery activity in both towns and grew to include other types of serious organised crime, also supported by Europol.
In November 2017, two officers from the Lithuanian police service joined the investigation, helping Norfolk and Suffolk police by providing real time checks of police databases from Lithuania.
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Chief inspector in the Cyber, Intelligence and Serious Crime Directorate , Angus Moir said: 'This ongoing investigation continues to be a complex operation where the assistance and support of partners and agencies is central to successful enforcement action being brought against offenders.
'We know that modern day slavery, is by its very nature, generally hidden from view, and we are working hard with our partners to identify and support victims and to bring those responsible to justice.'
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He added: 'Information is key here and we recognise the important role that external organisations, local authorities and the public play in recognising the signs and reporting concerns to us.
'We have the resources in place to respond effectively and we will do all we can to stop this exploitation of often vulnerable people by organised criminals.'
Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said: 'Like many others I am sure, I mistakenly thought slavery ceased to exist in the United Kingdom nearly 200 years ago and the thought this crime still occurs in twenty first century Suffolk beggars belief.
'That said I hope this prosecution sends an extremely clear message to everyone - this crime is intolerable and if convicted I would expect the custodial sentence handed out are particularly severe.'
Norfolk's police and crime commissioner Lorne Green, said: 'It is incumbent on us all to do something about it, and I am determined to work with partners to raise awareness of modern slavery, identify victims and ensure they get the support they need.
'It is crucial we all work together to continue to shine the light on the darkest corners of Norfolk to catch those responsible.'