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Two more Belfast 'human trafficking victims' contact police

By Alan Erwin

Published 13/08/2015

The accused was released on bail.
The accused was released on bail.

Two more alleged victims of human trafficking in Belfast have made contact with police, a court heard today.

The pair were interviewed by detectives investigating a suspected slave labour racket operated in the city, a judge was told.

Details emerged as a planned bail application by a Hungarian man accused of playing a central role was put on hold.

Zoltan Raffael, 39,  is charged with three counts of human trafficking and three of acting as an unlicensed gang master.

He is further accused of money laundering.

The charges relate to two women and a man allegedly trafficked earlier this summer.

Raffael, with an address at Eia Street in the city, was arrested after voluntarily handing himself in to police last month.

He denies the allegations and was said to have provided a full account at interview.

A 38-year-old woman charged with similar offences is currently on police bail ahead of her first scheduled court appearance next month.

Raffael's barrister today sought to adjourn his bid to be released amid attempts to ensure he has no contact with the co-accused.

Mark Farrell told Belfast Magistrates' Court: "This is a very serious allegation of people trafficking from Europe to the United Kingdom and then Northern Ireland for the purposes effectively of slave labour."

He also disclosed: "There are two further potential alleged victims of this potential people trafficking enterprise who have come forward that police want to speak to.

"I can see that causing problems for a court determining bail."

A detective involved in the investigation confirmed the development in the case.

"There were another two (alleged) victims being interviewed this week," she said.

The officer also stressed police will "strongly object" to Raffael being granted bail.

Agreeing to the adjournment application, the judge listed the case for a further update next week.

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