Belfast Telegraph

Vice ring made £20k a day, bail hearing told

A crime gang suspected of trafficking women to work as prostitutes in Belfast is believed to have amassed more than £2m in assets, a court has been told.

Police also claimed those running the vice ring have the potential to generate over £20,000 a day in income.

The scale of the operation was disclosed as bail was denied to a woman described as playing a “pivotal” role in running brothels and being the gang leader's girlfriend.

Ashleigh Beuken (21), of Argyle Street, Glasgow, faces charges of trafficking, controlling prostitution for gain, brothel keeping and converting criminal property. She was detained along with three others during a series of raids in Belfast earlier this month.

One of those was Yvonne Dawson, aged 22, also from Glasgow. Dawson, a university graduate, was charged with controlling prostitution.

She was granted bail earlier this month.

The arrests formed part of a UK-wide operation aimed at recovering the victims of sexual exploitation.

The court was previously told the gang spent £54,000 on newspaper advertisements for brothels in Belfast, and another £10,000 on the travel costs of bringing women and transsexuals into the city to work.

Those suspected of controlling the prostitutes also operate in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Cardiff, it was claimed.

Police opposed Beuken's application for bail during a hearing at Belfast Magistrates Court yesterday. A detective constable said: “It's the police view that Ms Beuken is pivotal to this enterprise.”

The officer disclosed that the gang has been assessed as |having the potential to generate illicit income in excess of £20,000 a day. He told the court that Strathclyde Police were now seeking to have £2.3m in assets frozen.

Defence lawyer Joe McVeigh disputed claims that his client played any key role in the alleged prostitution ring.

He said she had advertised her availability “to be in the company of men” through a number of websites.

“If you were making a share of a £2.3m profit ... why would you have sex with strangers?” Mr McVeigh asked.

Even though the detective claimed there were some 4,500 telephone communications |between Beuken and the suspected gang leader over a four -month period, the solicitor argued that she had been “ruthlessly” taken as his girlfriend.

Describing the accused as a victim, Mr McVeigh said: “This is someone who, police would say, is earning large sums of money from this but still has to be, on the police case, used as a prostitute.”

The lawyer also questioned how a woman aged 21 could have such an alleged high-ranking role in a crime gang controlled by older men.

He added that, without wanting to stereotype Beuken, the allegation against her was almost like “the gangster's moll”.

Despite his submissions, and the offer of a £10,000 cash surety, District Judge Fiona Bagnall refused bail due to the risk of interference with witnesses and potential reoffending.

Beuken was remanded in custody to appear again later this month.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph