In April 2015, Europol supported Operation Mustily, a British and Slovak investigation aimed at dismantling a criminal gang exploiting vulnerable people through forced labour.

This large criminal network was suspected of trafficking adults and children to the UK for exploitation through forced labour and social benefit fraud. The victims from Slovakia were recruited with false promises of well-paid jobs. They were subsequently trafficked to several British cities where they were exploited.

UK authorities initiated an investigation after receiving intelligence on an extensive trafficking in human beings (THB) for labour exploitation network. The intelligence was provided by the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Slovak National Department for Combating Illegal Immigration. The initial enquiry led to 10 linked investigations in different areas of the UK.

Europol provided support throughout the investigation by analysing intelligence, organising operational meetings and facilitating the exchange of information between British and Slovak authorities. On the action day, Europol deployed mobile offices and forensic analysis tools to cross-check data in real time. Europol also financed the meetings within Mustily and provided financing for Slovak police officers to travel to the UK.

Partners involved in the cooperation

  • Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA), UK
  • National Crime Agency (NCA), UK
  • Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the National Department for Combating Illegal Immigration, Slovak Republic
  • Europol
  • UK Municipalities (for example Peterborough City Council)
  • British Red Cross
  • Salvation Army UK.

What makes this case successful?

During a nationwide action day in the UK, at least 13 people were arrested and dozens of possible victims of THB for labour exploitation were taken to shelters.

Read more about the role of Europol in the fight against THB for labour exploitation.