Manchester police have arrested 13 members of suspected human trafficking gang after a pregnant woman was allegedly duped into travelling to England before being sold into a sham Sharia law marriage.
The 20-year-old Slovakian woman was tricked into flying to Luton airport in May under the ruse she would be able to meet her sister.
However, after meeting a man at the airport it soon became apparent the intention was not for her to meet her sibling and she was instead taken to an address in Failsworth, Oldham.
It was then that the woman found out she had been sold to a Muslim man who had paid the gang between £10,000 and £15,000 to provide the pregnant victim for a sham marriage.
The ultimate aim of the marriage, police say, was to improve the man's chances of avoiding deportation from the UK.
In July, the pair married under Sharia law in Rochdale, before moving into an address together.
The alarm was only raised when the victim attended a hospital appointment with another woman, who acted as an interpreter and told staff that the victim wanted an abortion.
However, once the victim was spoken to on her own by an independent interpreter, it became clear she was repulsed by the idea of having an abortion and that she had been sold into a marriage against her will.
The victim was then taken into care and an investigation into the trafficking gang begun.
Greater Manchester Police officers alongside partner agency teams from the Home Office raided a number of addresses in Rochdale, Failsworth and Cheetam Hill.
In total ten men and three women aged between 24 and 57 were arrested for a number of offences including trafficking people for exploitation, conspiracy to facilitate breach of immigration law, conspiracy to assist the unlawful immigration into a member state. Three people were arrested for being overstayers in the UK.
Detective Inspector James Faulkner said: "This woman was brought to Manchester with the sole purpose of being married to a man who hoped to boost his immigration status. She was completely unaware of this group's nefarious motives and by the time she realised what was going on, it was too late."
He added that the case was "just the tip of the iceberg" and there were up to 400 cases of trafficking of women for sham marriages happening in Manchester today.