Police launch major raid on Wolverhampton's Ming Moon Chinese restaurant in 'modern slavery' swoops
This is the moment police raided Wolverhampton's Ming Moon Chinese restaurant in a blitz on suspected 'modern slavery' around the West Midlands.
Five men suspected to have been working for little money were taken away from the landmark Stafford Road building after officers smashed their way in at around 8am.
Police say the conditions the men were apparently living in were 'cramped' and not suitable. They were among 20, mainly from Solvakia and Romania, who police found today and who could have been working as modern day slaves.
Dressed in protective head gear, officers used a battering ram to enter through a locked side door at Ming Moon, triggering the security alarm.
Motorists continued to drive past on the busy road, with pedestrians stopping to ask officers what was happening.
The men inside were led out of the restaurant one by one and to a waiting minibus.
It left the scene at around 9.30am back down Marsh Lane.
A spokesman for Ming Moon declined to comment on the raid, but said the restaurant would be open for business as usual today.
The raid was one of a number which took place around the region today in a blitz called Operation Robotic.
Two more restaurants were also subject of warrants today. They were Red Leaf, High Street, West Bromwich, and Wing Wah, Fletchamstead Highway, Coventry.
No one was found at the West Bromwich address. A man answering the phone at the restaurant today told the Express & Star: "They (police) came and asked for information and then they left."
Twelve suspected slavery victims were found in Coventry and three at an address in Anthrobus Road, Handsworth.
At the latter address, a 49-year-old man and woman aged 45, both Slovakian, were arrested on suspicion of slavery offences. They are not the business owners, but are suspected of having provided staff through a recruitment consultancy.
Det Ch Insp Sally Simpson, who is West Midlands Police modern slavery lead, said: "We are going to a number of addresses around the West Midlands where we believe people have been trafficked into the country for the purposes of labour exploitation.
"There are five people here (Wolverhampton) today who we believe may be victims of slavery. It's the very early stages at the moment and we're just in the process of speaking to them.
"We have worked with our partner agencies including Hope for Justice and the Salvation Army to source intelligence into what has been happening here, which has resulted in the raid today.
"This operation is part of a wider investigation by West Midlands Police into human trafficking and slave labour.
The officer claimed what appeared to be the men's living conditions were 'not what you or I would like. It is very cramped and not suitable for that amount of people.
"In cases of modern slavery it may be that victims are not totally unpaid, but are paid a very small amount - not enough to get out of their situation or to live on."
Those found at the premises will now be supported by the police and partner agencies including the Salvation Army to get them into safe accommodation.
The Red Cross, HMRC, Hope for Justice, Gang Masters Licencing Abuse Authority and the National Crime Agency all worked with police on today's swoop.
Between May 2016 and April 2017 West Midlands Police recorded 208 slavery offences.
That was up from just over 100 in the previous year, with more than 40 people arrested on suspicion of slavery offences.
Anybody who suspects slavery or trafficking offences are happening in their community should call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700, visit www.modernslaveryhelpline.org or call West Midlands Police on 101.