Romanian women to face human trafficking charges in Sweden

Two Romanian women have been remanded in custody pending their extradition to Sweden on human trafficking charges.

Ancuta Schwarz, 27, and Aura Gabriela Anghel, 20, who gave their addresses as Malone Grove in Belfast, were arrested on Thursday.

The police also rescued possible victims as part of a joint operation with Swedish police.

The women told Belfast Crown Court they will vigorously contest the charges.

The arrests were made during a number of searches in the greater Belfast area.

The searches followed after a European Arrest warrant was issued in Sweden, where the women face a charge of "aggravated procuring".

Police believe some of the premises searched were being used as brothels.

Serious

Officers from Sweden and Northern Ireland have been working together in the search, rescue and arrest activity, codenamed Operation Burgrave, for a number of months, and have rescued a number of possible victims. Two of the possible victims were rescued in Northern Ireland.

Operation Burgrave is an investigation into an organised crime group suspected of involvement in controlling prostitution and human trafficking in Northern Ireland and Sweden. Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) detectives are also conducting inquiries into suspected money laundering.

This operation has been made possible through a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) agreement between the UK and Sweden.

Eurojust, the EU agency set up to promote co-ordination between member states in relation to serious and organised crime, has partly funded the operation.

The operation is assisted and supported by Europol, and PSNI and Swedish police are liaising with law enforcement authorities in Romania.

The possible victims are being interviewed by specially trained officers, and those in Northern Ireland will be provided with the services of a support scheme funded by the Department of Justice, if deemed necessary.

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

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