Belfast Telegraph

Romanian men accused of human trafficking in Belfast, court hears

By Alan Erwin

Customers' mobile phones may be examined as part of an investigation into a suspected human trafficking and prostitution ring, the High Court has heard.

Prosecutors revealed detectives could focus on men believed to have used the services of Romanian women allegedly brought into Northern Ireland and exploited.

Details emerged as a man accused of running the sex trade centred in Banbridge, Co Down was again refused bail.

Spartacus Mihai, 20, of Henly Road in Ilford, Essex, was arrested with his 28-year-old brother Decebal during a PSNI operation in May.

Searches were carried out at properties on Kenlis Street, Banbridge, and Belfast's Newtownards Road, with police saying four women were rescued from the two locations.

The two brothers, both Romanian nationals, are jointly charged with controlling prostitution, conspiracy to traffic within the United Kingdom, and concealing, converting and transferring criminal property.

A previous court heard claims that they are part of an organised crime gang who banked more than £125,000 earned by the women.

Further research was said to have uncovered moneygram transfers to accounts in Romania.

The brothers, who deny the charges against them, were observed driving women to hotels and other locations to meet clients for sex, according to the prosecution.

But the alleged victims have refused to co-operate with the investigation and showed up at court appearances in support of the defendants.

Spartacus Mihai mounted a renewed bid to be released from custody based on potential delays in the case.

However, a Crown lawyer insisted that financial statements have now been obtained as part of a case file running to seven folders.

Forensic reports have been carried out on mobile phones belonging to three of the women, the court was told.

The prosecutor added: "It may well be that there are other individuals, for example I have been made aware of two individuals who police would say were customers or clients.

"Their telephones may be triaged and reports obtained, although they don't form the integral part of the evidence in this case."

Following her update, defence counsel Conn O'Neill accepted his concerns about progressing the case had been addressed.

Denying bail, Mr Justice Burgess ruled: "Against the backdrop of the timetable about which I have now been informed, I don't believe there's been a change of circumstances."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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