A key witness in an alleged human trafficking case was earning £2,000 a week as a prostitute in Belfast to fund her medical studies, the High Court has heard.
Lawyers for one of the men charged after a series of raids also rejected claims he was involved in running a major vice-ring.
Malcolm McNeill (46), agreed to sign rental agreements for flats in Belfast without knowing they would be used as brothels, his barrister said. Defence counsel Joe Brolly told the court: “This case is replete with hyperbole, smoke and mirrors, and a lot of it is propagandistic nonsense.”
Scotsman McNeill, a coach driver from Forest Avenue, Hamilton, faces charges of trafficking, controlling prostitution for gain, brothel keeping and converting criminal property. He was denied bail by a judge who referred to his alleged major part in the suspected operation.
McNeill was arrested with former business associate Stephen Craig (33), of Albert Road, Clydebank, during police swoops in September.
Craig is accused of the same offences, while two women have also been charged in connection with the alleged racket.
Police believe gang members suspected of trafficking women to work as prostitutes in Belfast amassed over £2m in assets.
They allegedly spent £54,000 on newspaper advertisements for brothels in the city, and another £10,000 on the travel costs of bringing in women and transsexuals to work in them.
Crown lawyer Barry Valentine opposed McNeill's release due to his alleged role in setting up and leasing at least three properties to be used as brothels.
Mr Valentine said: “These human trafficking victims have been put in fear of the applicant and his associates.”
Much of the prosecution case is based on the evidence of two women who claim they were made to work as sex slaves by the gang.
Mr Brolly claimed the alleged trafficking and controlling vice network appeared to be nothing more than two prostitutes working in one flat.
The barrister said one of them, identified only as Witness A, was a medical student at a leading Scottish university. He told the court she had been working part-time to fund her studies and was earning £2,000 a week.
The second woman, Witness B, is Bolivian woman who worked as a call girl in London before coming to Belfast, the court heard.