Sauna raids: ‘Evidence of human trafficking’

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POLICE raids on seven saunas in Edinburgh were carried out after evidence was found of human trafficking.

Officers believe that, in some cases, vulnerable women working in the premises were “not there of their own free will”.

Chief Superintendent Mark Williams, divisional commander in Edinburgh, denied there had been a change of approach to how prostitution is managed in the capital. Mr Williams would not say how many women may have been trafficked, from which countries, or how many of the premises may have been linked to this crime. Police interviewed 30 women of different nationalities during the raids.

One sauna has been closed, while another is shut after its electricity supply was cut. All seven will be referred to an City of Edinburgh Council sub committee, which will decide on whether they get to keep their public entertainment licences.

Edinburgh has previously had a distinctive approach to prostitution, where a blind eye was turned to sex for sale in licensed premises to reduce street prostitution, which is seen as more harmful.

Police insist Friday’s raid, involving 150 officers, on seven saunas and 11 other premises, was about keeping people safe. Mr Williams said: “There were discrepancies with licensing regulations, for example, the fire service found a number of issues that concerned them regarding fire safety.

“We recovered assets in excess of £500,000, which we believe are associated with serious and organised crime and critically, we found what we believe to be evidence of human trafficking.”