Two arrests as drug and human trafficking raids carried out in Sunderland in West Balkan crime gang crackdown

Raids against organised crime gangs from the West Balkans have been carried out in Sunderland leading to the discovery of two cannabis farms.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 3:58 pm

The Wearside addresses were searched as part of an eight-month long investigation into the importation and distribution of class A and class B drugs, money laundering, modern slavery and human trafficking.

The properties in Sunderland were among seven raids carried out in Blackburn, Birmingham and Sunderland, while 18 were targeted by Thames Valley Police in Reading.

So far a total of 20 people have been arrested on suspicion of offences including class A and class B production and distribution – two were in Sunderland, with two cannabis farms uncovered during the operation.

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Raids were carried out in Sunderland, Reading, Birmingham, Blackburn and London as part of the operation.

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A significant amount of cash, drugs, weapons and other items were seized in the raids, which were supported by the National Crime Agency (NCA), the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU) and the Home Office.

The West Balkans take Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo.

NCA Deputy Director Andrea Wilson said: “Today’s activity highlights just how seriously we are taking the threat from Western Balkan organised crime groups.

“They are involved in various forms of serious and organised criminality, including the trafficking and supply of class A drugs, organised immigration crime and corruption.

“Identifying and targeting these high harm networks requires a whole-system law enforcement approach, and anyone involved in widespread organised crime should take notice that the NCA and partners will do all we can to disrupt their activity and ensure they face justice”.

Detective Inspector Natalie Hall, of SEROCU, said: “This partnership working is vital in identifying and disrupting the most harmful individuals and organised crime groups in order to protect our communities.

“Investigating this type of criminality can be complex and time-consuming and this particular operation has been a culmination of months of hard work by officers.

"Therefore, I am pleased that we have been able to carry out these warrants and make a number of arrests.

“Further, I hope that this serves as a warning to those in the community who are involved in the supply and distribution of drugs as well as the exploitation of people, that we know who you are, where you are and we are committed to bringing you to justice.”

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