Man arrested in Belfast on suspicion of human trafficking for sexual exploitation
The investigation into brothel keeping, prostitution and money laundering also saw a woman arrested.
A 57-year-old man has been arrested in the Belfast area on suspicion of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, controlling prostitution, brothel keeping and money laundering.
Following a search, a number of electronic devices were seized.
Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) detectives have also arrested a 27-year-old woman in the Antrim area on suspicion of controlling prostitution, brothel keeping and money laundering.
Both of the suspects have been taken to Musgrave Serious Crime Suite for questioning.
A further five men were arrested in Stewartstown, Carrickfergus, Banbridge, Newtonabbey and Omagh on suspicion of paying for sexual services.
They are currently in custody and assisting detectives with their enquiries.
“These arrests are part of a proactive investigation into human trafficking for sexual exploitation in Northern Ireland which has been ongoing for eight months," said PSNI Detective Inspector Mark Bell on Sunday.
"Sexual exploitation is often an unseen crime - often victims are transported to client's properties so there may not be the obvious case of men coming and going to the one property.
"Furthermore, many victims can be afraid to speak out or may be being held captive. However, for some people who are subject to this kind of exploitation, they may not think of themselves as victims.
"They may be vulnerable and have been manipulated into having sex for money, often controlled and coerced into passing over some of the profits to another person who ultimately lines their pockets as a result of the exploitation."
Seven people have been arrested by PSNI Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit. pic.twitter.com/YDzseISjc4
— Police Service NI (@PoliceServiceNI) September 29, 2019
Bell has urged victims to come forward to police in order to get they help and support that they need.
"Perhaps you are in this position but don’t think that you are being exploited," he began.
"I’d urge you to have a think about the people around you and if there is anyone who is pushing you in a certain direction or financially benefiting from your activities, please make contact with the police.
“I also want the public to be aware of the signs to look out for. Maybe you have concern for a friend or someone you know who is being put under pressure to provide sexual services and made to feel that they have no choice.
"They may be keeping anti-social hours and be driven around by someone they won’t let you get to know. There could be obvious signs that the person is being controlled, such as a lack of access to their money," Bell added.
33 arrests have been made since the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act was enacted in Northern Ireland in 2015.
Over the last three years, the PSNI has investigated 182 potential victims of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
"Human trafficking is unacceptable," Bell continued.
"The criminals responsible prey on vulnerable people, violate their human rights and exploit them for their own selfish gains.
"Unlike drugs or firearms which are only bought or sold once, a victim can be sexually exploited over and over again, which could generate a continuous source of income for criminals."
The PSNI has advised anyone with concerns relating to this issue to contact 999 in the event of an emergency, or 101.
Alternatively, the Modern Slavery Helpline can be reached on 08000 121 700.