A TRAFFICKING ring which sold teenagers and women for as much as £10,000 has been busted in Glasgow, say police.

Women who it’s suspected were raped, abused and forced to work as prostitutes were led to safety prior to the major police raid in Govanhill.

Dozens of officers from Police Scotland’s Specialist Crime Division and Europol targeted four flats in Govanhill yesterday as part of a three year long operation into trafficking and exploitation.

Two flats on Allison Street, one on Langside Road and another on Calder Street were raided by 70 officers around 8.45am and three potential victims were found inside along with their alleged traffickers.

A further 13 suspected victims, aged between 18 and 25, had already been helped to safety by police ahead of yesterday’s sting from across the UK, including in Glasgow.

Five people have been arrested in connection with the raid, dubbed Operation Synapsis, which has been in development since 2014 and spans the length of the UK.

Two Slovakian women, aged 40 and 25, two Slovakian men aged 58 and 28, and a Nepalese man aged 35, were taken into police custody yesterday and have subsequently been arrested.

They are expected to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court today. 

Police claim that Slovakian women as young as 18 were trafficked to the UK by bus and plane, having been promised a better life and work.

When they arrived they were allegedly sold for between £3000 and £10,000 as part of a sham marriage scheme.

Their buyers, mainly men from Pakistan, wanted EU citizenship so they could live and work in Europe, and bought the women to become their wives.

Some of the victims, who weren’t sold immediately, were prostituted, raped and abused while others were abused by their purchasers.

Many have been left deeply traumatised by what they have experienced, with some choosing to stay in the UK and others returning to their families in Slovakia after escaping their abusers.

Officers have previously helped other suspected female victims of the trafficking ring, ranging from 18 years old to their mid 20s, by referring them to support organisations in Glasgow and across the country.

Police Scotland’s Specialist Crime Division, the National Human Trafficking unit, financial crime and specialist officers from the Rape Taskforce, Europol, Immigration Enforcement, Glasgow City Council’s social work department and Slovakian police were all involved in the Govanhill raid.

Crews from the council’s Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA), which helps victims of sex trafficking, were also on hand to support any victims recovered at the scene while members of the public were given letters and advice on how to spot the signs of trafficking.

At the same time, hit squads from Greater Manchester police were targeting homes south of the border as part of the same operation, with the trafficking ring thought to extend to several areas in Britain.

The European Court of Justice in the Hague had to grant Police Scotland permission to form a joint investigation with the Slovakian police force and the Metropolitan police before they could work together on targeting traffickers in both the UK and abroad.

Detective Inspector Steven McMillan, the operation’s Senior Investigating Officer, told the Evening Times the raid was the first of two planned stings.

Police Scotland officers are planning to travel to England next week to target traffickers thought to be involved in the same network.

He said the trafficking victims are often women who “have come from an impoverished area, they have low levels of intelligence and are gullible.”

DI McMillan explained: “There is no conversation about marriage before they get here.

“They arrive in whatever house they end up in and at least two or three males enter.

“[They] have a conversation that they don’t understand as it’s in English or sometimes in Urdu, and it’s the case of ‘You’re with him. He’s got your identity document. You’re going to marry him now.’

“My own view on it is it’s financial. They are treating these girls as a commodity. They can recruit them, it costs them nothing apart from a flight or a bus ticket.

“The original purpose of the trafficking seems to have been the sham marriage but many of these women have been forced in to prostitution, they have been raped, they have been subject to abuse that would never have happened if they hadn’t been trafficked in the first place.

“Very quickly they will move them on and in the cases where they haven’t these girls have been forced in to prostitution, they have that element of control of over them and are still recouping the money

“When you’re speaking to the girls and hearing their story, it’s not one or two clients a night. It’s a procession. It’s absolutely horrible.”

DI McMillan said the force is committed to protecting the public and tackling human trafficking, and has appealed for help from Glasgow residents.

He said: “Any information at all is welcome. We would rather investigate information and find out it’s nothing than receive no information at all.”

Anyone with information on suspected trafficking or labour exploitation is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101, Crimestoppers on 0800 0121 700, or they can contact the Modern Slavery Human Trafficking helpline on 08000 121 700.