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Five men arrested over Pope visit are Veolia workers

The five men arrested in London in relation to a potential threat to Pope Benedict’s visit worked for Veolia Environmental Services (VES) under a contract with Westminster City Council.

Metropolitan Police officers from Counter Terrorism Command arrested the men at 5.45am (17 September) under the Terrorism Act on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. It is not yet clear what the threat to the Pope’s visit was.

The men are aged 26, 27, 36, 40 and 50. There were arrested at a business premises in central London, thought to be VES’s Chiltern Street Depot, and are being interviewed by detectives. Police are carrying out searches on that business premises and houses in north and east London, although so far searches have not led to the discovery of any hazardous items.

Westminster council confirmed that the men worked in a street cleansing team of 650. Council director for city management Dr Leith Penny said: “The UK’s security is obviously of critical importance and can never be taken for granted, and so our congratulations must go to the police authorities for their swift action today.

“While police investigations are ongoing and no charges have been brought, we can confirm that the people at the centre of the investigation work for one of our contractors, Veolia Environmental Services, which employs 650 on-street staff to keep Westminster’s streets clean and free from rubbish.

“VES and ourselves work closely with the relevant authorities to constantly ensure that all the people working on their behalf are subject to right to work checks as prescribed by the Home Office to assess their eligibility to work in the country. We are confident that these checks are robust, and we will continue to work with the police and other authorities during this investigation.”

The Metropolitan Police made the arrests after a tip-off. A statement said: “Following today’s arrests, the policing arrangements for the Papal visit were reviewed and we are satisfied that our current policing plan remains appropriate. The itinerary has not changed.  There is no change to the UK threat level.”

UPDATE: On 19 September 2010, the men arrested in the story above were released without charge by police.

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