Three people involved in a trafficking operation which saw young girls forced to work in nail bars across the country have been convicted.
The investigation into the sophisticated operation involved five police forces and the National Crime Agency and began after our officers took part in a multi-agency welfare visit to the Nail Bar Deluxe in Bath city centre in February 2016.
Two women and a man were convicted by a jury earlier today of offences under the Modern Slavery Act, following a trial held at Stafford Crown Court. They will be sentenced in January 2018.
- Thu Huong Nguyen (known as Jenny), 48, of Southdown Road, Bath, was found guilty of conspiring to arrange or facilitate the movement of people for labour exploitation and conspiring to require others to perform forced or compulsory labour.
- Viet Hoang Nguyen (known as Ken), 29, and Giang Huong Tran (known as Susan), 23, both of Barker Round Way, Burton, were found guilty of conspiracy to require others to perform forced or compulsory labour. Ken was also convicted of conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the movement of people for labour exploitation.
The case against a fourth defendant - Hoang Anh Nguyen, 32, of Pitfield Street, London – was discontinued.
DI Charlotte Tucker, who led the operation for Avon and Somerset Police and was one of the officers to attend the Bath nail bar, said: “This is a desperately sad and tragic case in which young vulnerable girls were forced to work in nail bars across the country as part of a sophisticated money-making operation.
“The investigation began when officers visited a nail bar in Bath managed by Thu Huong Nguyen, known as Jenny, and found two victims working inside. They were aged 17 and 18.
“They were taken into protective custody and then into care, but went missing shortly after. Unfortunately this is a common occurrence in trafficking cases, as victims are conditioned to feel reliant on those controlling them and compelled to return to them.
“Further enquiries and intelligence work traced the movements of the missing girls to a nail bar in Abbey Arcade, Burton-on-Trent.
“A joint investigation was carried out with Staffordshire Police which led to arrests at this nail bar. One of the missing victims was found, along with two further victims, aged 16 and 17.
“This operation expanded rapidly and the national scale of the trafficking operation became clear, with links made to Bath, Cheltenham, Burton-on-Trent, Gloucester and Derbyshire.
“Through analysis and intelligence work we were able to connect all the defendants to each other. Evidence found at their properties also supported our case, including calendars, identity documents and data from mobile phones.
“The victims, who are all Vietnamese, have had traumatic childhoods and were treated by traffickers as commodities – forced to live and work in unsuitable conditions, with little or no pay, and enduring both physical and verbal abuse.
“Traffickers don’t recognise national or international boundaries and are hiding their victims in plain sight. We all need to recognise how these criminal networks operate and understand the signs potential victims can display.
“In the case of nail bars, warning signs could be very young looking members of staff, low prices, a rapid turnover of staff or controlling behaviour by senior employees. If you have any suspicions, please contact us.
“As a Force, we are proud of the work being undertaken by the regional South West Anti-Slavery Partnership and the relationships we’ve built with organisations such as Unseen, but we all have to do more to tackle this growing crime type."
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “Modern slavery is a crime that we all need to be talking about more, it’s happening right now and in everyday situations.
“It’s vital that trafficking operations like this are disrupted, ensuring victims are supported and offenders are brought to justice.
“This multi-agency work is so important in preventing and ending modern slavery.
“We all need to be a louder voice for those who are exploited.”
DI Clair Langley, of Staffordshire Police, said: “This has been a significant and extensive investigation and a prime example of how police forces have to work together to target the traffickers.
“This investigation has been extremely challenging and recognition must be given to the police and prosecution teams involved across the UK regions to reach this successful outcome.
“The hard work, commitment and tenacity of the staff involved deserves great credit. We are delighted to have achieved this result and are proud that these perpetrators have now been brought to justice.”
Kate Garbers, managing director of charity Unseen, said: “We’re pleased to have been able to support this operation from its beginning and it’s again evidence of the proactive and positive partnership work happening in the South West.
“Modern Slavery cases are not easy to investigate and prosecute and there’s a fine balance to be achieved between identifying and disrupting this crime and ensuring those affected by it are effectively safeguarded and protected.
“Avon and Somerset Police and the other partners and forces involved should be proud of the result achieved in this investigation.”
Unseen has launched a UK Modern Slavery Helpline. If you’re concerned for someone or are experiencing slavery please call 08000 121 700 for confidential advice, or you can text 21700, or visit www.modernslaveryhelpline.org
Posted on Friday 3rd November 2017