Yesterday, a multi-disciplinary search for illegal immigrant herb pickers took place throughout several locations in the Thetford, Norfolk area. The agencies involved were the UK Border Agency (UKBA), the eastern Region Intelligence Unit, Immigration Crime Team, Norfolk Constabulary, Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA), UK Human Trafficking Centre, Migrant Workers helpline staff and the Inland Revenue.

Warrants were issued for five teams to carry out searches at various properties. These searched uncovered 34 illegal workers, 3 of whom were immediately detained on immigration charges at the port of Harwich. The others included five Hungarians, three Polish and 23 Indian nationals.

The suspected ringleader of this operation, a 49 year old man, was also arrested and is being held in custody on suspicion of bringing illegal immigrants into the country. Large quantities of cash were uncovered and police will be investigating possible money laundering offences.

A spokesman for the UKBA said: “Officers from the UK Border Agency, with support from the police and HMRC, have carried out an operation into immigration related crime in the Thetford area. As this investigation is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to make any

further comment.”

A spokesman for the GLA said: “Six enforcement officers from the GLA worked with partner agencies today in the Thetford area to investigate suspected unlicensed gangmaster activity and other allegations.”

Senior investigating officer, DCI Mark Lay of the Eastern Region Intelligence Unit, said: “This was a joint franchise operation using the skills and expertise of partnership agency staff. The operation displays how criminal gangs can be dismantled using

the powers and offences of all the agencies.”

Detective sergeant Stuart Bailey from Norfolk Constabulary said: “These are very serious offences and we have worked with our partners to carry out the warrants and make an arrest. Despite the scale of the operation and the resources involved, the impact on the community was minimal with no disruption to those neighbours living in the areas affected.”

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