Cops investigating human trafficking into Ulster have rescued 11 women from sex slavery in the past year. According to the latest police figures, they are rescuing trafficked sex slaves at the rate of almost one a month from brothels across Northern Ireland.
The figures were revealed recently by Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris as he attended the launch of new support services to help victims of international trafficking.
“When they are actually brought here they are forced into prostitution,” he said.
“We can expect this will be a continuing problem for us because the profits involved and the criminal networks that are involved see this as a very lucrative business.
“People could have a brothel quite close to them and they should be aware of that, that it could actually be one of those brothels with women in it in the most awful circumstances in sexual servitude.”
Previously senior security figures have played down human trafficking as a problem in Northern Ireland, but they are now tackling a growing problem.
Last December the Serious Organised Crime Agency was involved in busting a major international sex trafficking operation — being run from Wales — that brought women from South Africa to work in brothels across Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic.
A month earlier, burly pimp Mark Russell escaped a jail term after being among the first to be convicted of sex trafficking into Northern Ireland.
Russell escaped with a suspended jail sentence when he admitted human trafficking and controlling prostitution at Belfast Magistrates Court.
Russell (38) from Dromore, Co Down, had been bringing in Asian prostitutes from Britain to work in brothels in Ulster.
He pleaded guilty to the offences in a magistrates court, where the maximum sentence for the offences is six months in jail.
Roly poly limo driver Michael Hill wasn’t so lucky when he was sent to jail when he became the first person in Northern Ireland to be convicted of controlling prostitution.
The heavyweight pimp was sentenced to four months behind bars after being convicted of controlling prostitutes in a south Belfast brothel in a case that went to the Crown Court.
Last year he was then hit hard in the pocket, when cops seized his assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Hill was forced to hand over his Carrickfergus home, a holiday home in Turkey, his gleaming white limo and a stash of cash that was seized from his brothel.