Chapter Five – On The Hunt (Catching a Criminal Series Two)

The organised crime group in this case
clearly see no borders. They’re Latvian based but operating criminality in the UK. Now one
consideration for us early on in the investigation was that they could be
operating in other countries. So in order to establish that and to see what their
history was and whether they had committed offences in other countries we
started passing intelligence through Europol, which is a police intelligence
function in Holland. So we started submitting and sharing intelligence with Latvia. I was given some advice early on about something called a joint
investigation team or a ‘JIT’, which we call it for short. The JIT actually is a
formal document that both member states sign but it allows you to work with the
other member state like you would with any police force down the road so, in
effect, I could work or my team could work with the Latvian police like we
would a team from West Mids or a team from the Met. And it really
just opened the floodgates. We could share information between between us,
anything that we held that was useful to the investigation in Latvia we could
pass to them and it was as simple as picking up the phone and speaking to my
opposite number in Latvia. And we were able to gain a better understanding of
family connections, addresses that suspects were likely to be at and that
really enabled us some great planning to execute the European arrest warrants and
for us to be sure that we were going to get hold of Karens and Madara and bring
them back to the UK to face justice. We’ve got other evidence that was
out there, you know, when we started to look at proceeds of crime. It just opened
up a network of other areas that we could look at with the intention now of
changing the focus from that victim side to now more towards that evidential side.
So, credit where it’s due and all the research that was done, that was probably one of the best turning points within the operation. The joint investigation team process is, as far as I’m concerned, instrumental in getting a true reflection of an investigation. It’s important that we get that beginning process and the end process. Very often in the UK we have the
the exploitation and we have the elements of transport within the UK. It’s
very difficult to sometimes explain to a jury the recruitment process, the reason
for recruitment, that vulnerability in country, because we often feel that the
jury potentially feel as though that victims actually better off in the UK.
Well that may well be the case in relation to their domestic situation but
it doesn’t make it right in the UK because we have a standard that we must adhere to. So having come out here and sort of entered into the JIT process,
we’re able to show that beginning and the end process. With the joint investigation now established, the Derbyshire team started building bridges
with their counterparts from the Latvian State Police. Visits between the two countries, funded by Europol, helped the Latvian and British officers come up with a plan to tackle the human trafficking ring at its
roots. We were actually working alongside a dedicated team within the State Police of Latvia that deal primarily with the trafficking of human beings. I think
we were exceptionally lucky to have been put in touch with this team. They were
absolutely professional and they were really receptive actually to what we
were trying to achieve. They really were, the Latvian cops really were an
extension of our team. We were able to travel to Latvia and locate and find
many other victims that we knew had been subjected to criminality within the UK, and
we were able to work with the Latvian police and provide them with the same
amount of safeguarding and reassurance that we would with the victims that were
located in the UK. It was during one of the first trips to
Latvia the Carl and his team were able to see first-hand just how vulnerable some of the victims had been when they’d been recruited by the gang. The Latvian officers showed them some of the conditions they had been living in, including one derelict building that one man had fashioned into a home. One we found under a bridge. He was just by a burnt-out fire and it was freezing conditions and I think for me it just really hit home that actually
these people have been exploited because they don’t have anything and the promise
of that better life, and seeing the conditions that they lived in, you
understand why the offenders preyed on them. They were just seen as easy targets
for them. You just understand why they accepted the offer of coming to the UK
to make a better life. Every shocking piece of evidence helped build the case
against the gang. Thanks to the joint investigation team working so well
together, the plan to track down and arrest the remaining members of the gang
moved along quickly. And months after the warrants in Derby, the investigation team were ready to strike again… this time, more than 1,000 miles away.

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