In the 10-month Operation Fasthold, police identified and closed a dozen brothels run by the ruthless traffickers.
Yesterday, police rammed the doors of two premises in Glasgow and arrested two key members of the gang.
During the probe, officers rescued at least 12 potential female victims who were being sold for sex in Glasgow, Edinburgh and on adult websites.
Bank statements, cash, mobile phones and cars were seized in the raids involving more than 20 officers.
Detective Superintendent Donna Duffy said: “This was a great result. It was a major achievement identifying these traffickers. This was a serious trafficking organisation which was operating at a major level.”
The women were being sold for £120 an hour for brothel visits or out calls and were forced to work through Covid, putting their lives at risk.
Det Supt Duffy said: “There is still a demand unfortunately and they keep operating to meet it. Trafficking is a hidden business and it doesn’t shut down because of Covid.”
This was the third large-scale
operation spearheaded by a human trafficking unit in Glasgow after an increase in the crime in the city.
Yesterday’s operation brought the number of alleged traffickers arrested by the unit, established in January, to 13, with 25 potential victims rescued.
Det Supt Duffy added: “We were seeing a rise in the number of females who were being found and who we suspected of being sexually exploited. We needed to get to the organised crime making money from them.”
Not even raids on their network of brothels during the probe stopped the traffickers, who carried on their vile trade right up to their arrest,
Det Supt Duffy said: “Just because we go through the door of a brothel, doesn’t mean their operation is going to stop, they will move it to somewhere else. That’s why it is important to identify and arrest the traffickers.”
It can take months for an investigation to lead to arrests, because there is a chain of operators to obscure the kingpins at the top.
Det Supt Duffy said: “We go through the intelligence, tie up the addresses, and find the principle and organiser who is financially benefiting.”
Police will now forensically examine any mobile phones and paperwork which show the women have been trafficked and moved around Scotland for sexual exploitation. Officers will also search out any assets or funds which can be seized under proceeds of crime.
Det Supt Duffy said: “We want to hit them hard, not just with charges but financially.”
The traffickers use adult websites to advertise the women and the victims have no say over what sexual services they must carry out.
Det Supt Duffy said: “Traffickers will pay thousands of pounds to market on the websites. It is easy for them. The calls come into someone in the chain, not the women, so the traffickers have all the control. The person taking the call will agree the price and know exactly how much money is earned and they take the vast majority of it.”
The women tend to come from deprived parts of the world and be providing for family back home, as well as paying off debts to their traffickers.
Det Supt Duffy said the toppling of a trafficking ring is often triggered with a small piece of information from the public, adding: “Operations like this often starting with something which has come from the community.
“If people have concerns about a property having a high number of visitors, they should contact us. It could be significant.”