Duo jailed for two years on vice and trafficking charges
A man and woman from Romania have been jailed on charges of controlling prostitution and people trafficking.
The sentencing at Belfast Crown Court followed an international inquiry involving the PSNI and Swedish authorities that resulted in the arrests of Ionut Ilie (34) and his 30-year-old co-accused Ancuta Schwarz.
The charges arise from the trafficking of a woman in her 20s from Romania who was forced to work in brothels in Ireland and Sweden.
Both Ilie, from Bucharest, and Schwarz, from Berlin, admitted a series of charges linked to the trafficking of the woman.
All the charges relate to a period between February 2011 and April 2013.
The pair admitted two charges of controlling prostitution for gain, of trafficking the woman, and also of conspiring to remove criminal property.
Schwarz admitted an additional count of removing criminal property - namely sending £4,178 to another woman in Romania via a Western Union money transfer.
Both Ilie and Schwarz were handed two-year sentences, and were informed they will serve eight months in prison, with the remainder of the term spent on supervised licence.
During sentencing it emerged that Ilie and Schwarz have already served time in a Swedish prison on the same set of offences involving the same victim.
They served two years real time in Sweden, and prior to yesterday's sentencing had spent six months in custody in Northern Ireland.
During the court proceedings in Sweden the victim - who was trafficked from Romania - revealed how she thought she was being brought to Ireland for legitimate work.
However, she was forced to work in brothels on both sides of the border before being moved to Scandinavia.
Judge Kerr said that the victim in the case, as with any trafficking case, would have been subject to "humiliating and degrading behaviour".
He added: "This is a case of organised crime which involved human trafficking - something which quite clearly is capable of causing potential physical and psychological injuries to victims at a high level."
The judge, however, accepted that there was no evidence to suggest the woman was the victim of any serious violence in relation to the case.
Officers from the PSNI's Human Trafficking Unit welcomed the jail terms.
Detective Chief Inspector Douglas Grant said the prosecutions had followed a joint operation - codenamed Burgrave - involving the PSNI and Swedish police which investigated an organised crime gang suspected of controlling prostitution and human trafficking in both jurisdictions.
"Officers carried out an arrest and search operation in Belfast in April 2013 as a result of which 13 trafficking victims were rescued," he said.
"Working with law enforcement colleagues in various parts of Europe, we believe we have halted the activities of an organised crime gang involved in controlling prostitution and human trafficking in Northern Ireland, Sweden and Romania.
"The joint investigation team agreement between the UK and Sweden was reached with the assistance of Public Prosecution Service prosecutors and has enabled our teams of officers to secure criminal justice outcomes in separate jurisdictions.
"Police will deploy every mechanism at our disposal to ensure victims are protected and that criminals are made to pay for their crimes."