Undercover police caught sex racket boss, court hears
Police went undercover as part of a major investigation into eastern European women allegedly being trafficked into Northern Ireland to work in the sex trade, the High Court has heard.
Prosecutors disclosed the operation as bail was refused for the man accused of being at the head of a crime gang behind a cross-border vice racket.
Bronislav Rybensky (29), a Czech Republic national with an address at College Central Apartments, King Street, Belfast, faces charges of trafficking women into the UK for sexual exploitation, controlling prostitution and brothel keeping.
The former welder was arrested last week when officers raided properties across the city following a three-month probe. Another man and woman also face charges in connection with the inquiry, while six alleged victims were rescued.
Crown counsel Nicola Auret told the court: "Police can prove that a £20 note recovered from cash in his apartment was one passed to a prostituted female.
"That was by means of an undercover officer who went there and asked her about her services. Money was passed and then he made his excuses and left."
She added that it was the prosecution's case that Rybensky was "the main man" in an organised crime gang which trafficked women across Europe.
It was claimed that Rybensky advertised their services on an escort website, and took up to 80% of their earnings.
Rybensky is also alleged to have grabbed a woman by the hair and forced her into a cold shower.
Neil Rafferty, defending, disputed the Crown assessment of the case and claimed his client only helped willing sex workers get a better rate for their services.
"This is a case where this man has facilitated people coming to this country who have worked in the sex trade."
However, Mr Justice Treacy rejected defence submissions that the alleged operation lacked sophistication.
Refusing bail due to fears of re-offending, the judge said: "It appears from the facts outlined to me that he (Rybensky) is alleged to have exercised control, violence and engaged in deception."
As part of the case against Bronislav Rybensky, the High Court was told:
* More than 70 flights costing over £14,000 were paid for out of his bank account;
* £32,000 in cash was lodged in his account without a proper explanation;
* Mobile phones, more than 30 SIM cards and escort advertising documentation were also seized.