A long-serving garda has been arrested in connection with a major investigation into the illegal trafficking of underage African women into Ireland for the sex industry.
The Mayo-stationed garda was suspended from the force a year ago and now faces up to life imprisonment after being arrested under new trafficking legislation.
At least one victim in the investigation is underage and believed to be aged 17.
The Irish Examiner understands the investigation led by the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) is focusing on the operation of a number of brothels and lap dancing clubs in the west of Ireland.
The investigation, which is ongoing for more than a year, was helped when a female victim brought into the sex industry came forward and confidentially revealed details to gardaí.
The garda was arrested along with two others on Thursday morning in connection with the trafficking ring probe.
He was questioned at Carrick-on-Shannon Garda Station while a Nigerian woman, 33, was held at Coolock Garda Station, Dublin and another man, 52, was held at Manorhamilton Garda Station.
The three were arrested under Section 3 of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008, which relates to the offence of trafficking children for the purpose of sexual exploitation and carries a maximum prison sentence of life.
All three were released yesterday and a file was being prepared for the DPP.
The significant Garda investigation into the trafficking ring has been ongoing for some time, informed sources confirmed last night, and it has involved international police forces through Interpol.
The garda was suspended from the force by Garda Commissioner Fachnta Murphy over a year ago, one source revealed.
The investigation includes looking at how homes or rented property were potentially used as brothels in the west of Ireland and how females from outside the EU, including Africa, were illegally trafficked into the country for the sex industry.
The victims include females trafficked into the country from Nigeria, according to one source.
Fine Gael immigration spokesman Denis Naughton yesterday said he welcomed the arrests.
But he warned that victims seeking protection were being targeted by traffickers in protected accommodation.
“NGOs believe that, in some instances, traffickers are targeting asylum seekers hostels and identifying women and young girls who they attempt to lure into a life of prostitution and exploitation,” he said.
The Government’s failure to revise laws on prostitution had also seen a dramatic rise in the amount of brothels and their numbers would increase even more with the planned clampdown on the industry in the North, argued the Roscommon/South Leitrim TD.
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