Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Marina boss 'significant player in the prostitution trade' court hears

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A marina boss is believed to be a significant player in the control of prostitution in Belfast, the High Court heard today.

Robert Weir has allegedly tried to obtain rental apartments and used fake names in a bid to establish a position within the city's sex trade, prosecutors said.

The 54-year-old, of Drumsough Road, Randalstown, Co Antrim, was arrested following the discovery of a suspected Spanish prostitute in a central Belfast flat.

Weir was later found in possession of a key for the apartment in the James Clow complex.

He faces charges of controlling prostitution for gain and possession of criminal property.

A judge who refused bail to Weir was told he was arrested earlier this month after the woman told police she advertised on an Escort Ireland website using the working name Laura.

Conor Maguire, prosecuting, said she claimed a man called Bobby had helped her obtain the apartment.

A phone seized from Weir included her number under the heading 'Laura UK', the court was told.

Other numbers saved on contact lists on the same mobile are allegedly associated with various adult websites.

Mr Maguire said another resident in the complex claimed to have heard a number of men talking about "hookers" as they left the apartment under investigation.

According to his statement a man in a blue Jaguar car had called regularly at the property since last November, collecting white envelopes from women there.

Following his arrest Weir claimed he had been at the apartment cleaning it, the court heard.

Searches of his Jaguar car led to the seizure of two phones, Sim cards and £1,900 in cash.

Weir later claimed the phone containing the names belonged to someone else, and that an associate had given him the apartment keys to meet friends there.

He denied any involvement in prostitution and said the cash was the proceeds of his work at a marina on Lough Neagh.

Opposing bail, Mr Maguire said: "It's the police belief that this applicant is integrally linked to organising and controlling prostitution and brothels for financial gain.

"Police believe he is seeking to re-establish his position as part of a significant criminal enterprise and he is seeking to obtain apartments for rent, using false names and third parties.

"Police believe this application is a significant player in the prostitution trade."

Defence lawyer Luke Curran argued there was no suggestion his client was involved in coercion or human trafficking.

"As things stand at the minute there is absolutely no other evidence of what was going on, and no other person in the apartment," he added.

Mr Justice O'Hara was told the marina business has been operating for around three years and needs Weir present to run it.

But describing the charges as "disturbing", the judge refused bail due to the risk of re-offending.

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