Twelve men have been arrested as part of an investigation into rape and slavery. Appearing in court, one of the defendants used an interpreter due to his poor English.‘Operation Fuel’ in Southampton, England, saw up to 16 police vehicles shut down parts of the city on Saturday, when the arrests were made.
Two men – Marius Stefan, 42, and Valentine Merclusca, 49 – both of Avenue Road, Southampton, have now appeared before Southampton Magistrates Court as part of the probe, the Daily Echo reports.
Earlier in the week, a teenager had reported being raped multiple times at a property in Southampton between the 9th and 18th of July.
A spokesperson for Hampshire Constabulary said police “are conducting enquiries at two addresses in Avenue Road, Southampton, in connection with a rape and modern-day slavery investigation.
“A 19-year-old woman made a report to police on Tuesday, July 18. … Initial enquiries suggest there is no threat to the wider community.
“Anyone with information should contact police on 101 quoting Operation Fuel.”
Mr Merclusca pleaded not guilty to two counts of rape and two offences under the Modern Day Slavery Act.
Mr Stefan, who used an interpreter during the hearing, did not enter a plea against two charges of rape.
The duo, who have been remanded in custody, are due to appear at Southampton Crown Court in September.
Six men have now been released but remain under investigation, while four men were released with no further action.
Earlier this month, the head of Scotland Yard’s anti-slavery police unit warned that nearby London is now a global hotspot for modern-day slavery.
“Everyone realises now we’re never going to police our way out of this,” said Detective Chief Inspector Phil Brewer, revealing that the capital has seen a surge in slavery cases this year.
In 2017 to the end of June police had 820 cases referred to them concerning people forced to work against their will without pay, often in dangerous conditions. This compares with 1,013 for the whole of 2016.