International crime gang's 'IT guy' on trafficking charge
A man charged with human trafficking and controlling prostitution in Belfast allegedly acted as the "IT guy" for a crime gang with links to Scotland and Sweden, a court heard yesterday.
Police claimed Marian Ilie set up and maintained escort agency websites as part of a wider operation which involved bringing women into Northern Ireland.
The 33-year-old Romanian national, of Donegall Avenue in Belfast, was arrested as part of searches across the city on Wednesday.
Ilie, a pizza delivery driver, is accused of committing the offences against one woman on dates since July 2017.
A judge at Belfast Magistrates' Court was told he denies the charges, claiming instead that he was paid £80 to collect the alleged victim and her husband at Dublin airport.
Opposing bail, a detective insisted there was a risk he could flee overseas.
"This organised crime gang has operated in Scotland and Sweden," he said.
The court heard police have so far identified and spoken to five women in connection with the investigation into suspected human trafficking.
Although Ilie's laptop and mobile phones had been seized, the detective claimed he could still access online accounts and cyber-storage platforms to destroy evidence.
Examination of the computer had uncovered multiple escort accounts on various websites, the court heard.
"He described himself during interview as the IT guy," the detective added.
Defence solicitor Pearse MacDermott said the accused provided online and computer services for other Romanian nationals with less command of the English language.
Bail was refused, and Ilie will appear again by video-link in four weeks' time.