A number of brothels around Athlone were raided and searched as part of the all-island Operation Quest, which took place on Tuesday (May 29 ) in a coordinated action against those in charge of the nation’s sex industry.
Though no local arrests were made during the operation, the Gardaí were satisfied that “information gathered will feed into the nationwide intelligence as part of the operation”.
“Our focus was on the organisers of the brothel operations,” said a Garda source, who couldn’t reveal either the addresses, or number of such establishments that were raided in the town.
As recently as seven months ago, the focus of Athlone Gardaí’s attitude to this industry was markedly different, as they targetted the practitioners rather than the traffickers and organisers.
On October 12 they raided a fly-by-night brothel in an apartment in the CityQuarter of the Towncentre on foot of a number of complaints, and they arrested two 26-year-old Lithuanian nationals who gave addresses in the UK.
The two were actually convicted in court on the same day, and fined €250 after giving assurances they would leave for the UK immediately. They had only been in business for two days.
This week’s operation, however, focussed on securing convictions against individuals involved in organising prostitution, brothel keeping and associated offences including money laundering, and required a co-ordinated effort across both the island’s police forces.
The operation started at midday on Tuesday, and has so far resulted in the search of over 100 premises, mainly private apartments, flats, and houses in the Republic.
Three people were arrested, and detained in Dublin. A large amount of documentation, cash, mobile phones and computers have also been seized.
The Garda operation, which involves over 200 Gardaí, was led by members of the Organised Crime Unit based at the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation supported by officers from all Garda Regions.
During the investigation to date it has been established that prostitution is organised on a cross-border basis and today’s joint operation was specifically aimed at individuals and groups intent on making profits from vulnerable members of society across the island of Ireland.
The policy of An Garda Síochána is to treat women involved as witnesses/victims unless significant evidence comes to light suggesting direct involvement in organised prostitution or brothel keeping.