Belfast Telegraph

Two men in court charged with 50 human trafficking and forced labour charges relating to Co Armagh operation

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Two men have been remanded in custody charged with 50 human trafficking and forced labour charges.

Ioan Lacatus, 31, whose address was given as Hanover Street, Portadown, Co Armagh and Samuil Covaci, 23, from Charles Street also in Portadown appeared at Lisburn Magistrates' Court this morning.

The pair were arrested as part of a major police operation which recovered 20 potential victims from two locations in Co Armagh.

Both men faced 12 counts of human trafficking, 12 counts of forced labour and one count of acting as an unlicensed gang master.

Lacatus, a father of three young children, faced an additional charge of concealing criminal property.

The potential victims, 14 men and six women, like the defendants from Romania, ranged in age from 20 to 48.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) detective constable Andrew Murphy told the court he believed he could connect both men to the charges and revealed that the investigation was still ongoing.

No bail applications were made for either defendant.

District Judge Peter King remanded them in custody and ordered that they re-appear via video link later this month.

Acting for Lacatus, defence solicitor Paul McCann said his client had denied all charges against him during police interviews.

"In making those denials he gave police several lines of inquiry which we will say point away from his culpability," said Mr McCann.

In the dock, the heavy-set Lacatus, was dressed in a turquoise and navy checked shirt with jeans.

When ordered by the judge to remove his hands from his pockets, Lacatus told an interpreter translating proceedings he could not because his trousers were falling down.

The court heard Lacatus was married with three children, all aged under six.

His defence solicitor raised concerns for the safety of his wife and family in light of his arrest but an application not to release Lacatus's address was rejected.

Judge King said: "Given the nature of the offences, his address will be known by people within the community."

Slightly-built Covaci, who wore a navy and red striped jumper with navy body-warmer and jeans stood with his hands behind his back occasionally folding his arms as the charges were read out.

Both men said they could not understand the charges but Judge King said another translator would be provided "in due course" to allow "proper consultation" with defence teams.

Both men are due to re-appear via videolink at Craigavon Magistrates' Court on August 29.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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