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'Madam' accused Briton denied bail

Fears that a British mother-of-four accused of masterminding a Manhattan prostitution ring would use a network of wealthy friends to help her flee the US were "ludicrous", her lawyer said after having an application for reduced bail denied.

Anna Gristina, 44, originally from Kirkliston, near Edinburgh, was told in court that she must put up a sum of one million dollars in cash or a two million dollars insurance bond in order to be released from New York's notorious Rikers Island jail ahead of a possible trial.

But judge Juan Merchan indicated that he was minded to accept the apartment of Gristina's former lawyer against the bail sum, now that he had excused himself from the case.

Her new lawyer, Gary Greenwald, said that the flat - in New York's fashionable Tribeca district - would be put up as a property bond "as soon as possible" and that he hoped to have his client released as early as next week. Gristina is charged with one count of promoting prostitution. At a previous hearing, she pleaded not guilty.

It is claimed that the Scottish woman set up a high-end call girl service operating out of an apartment in New York's well-heeled Upper East Side. Over a period of 15 years, the alleged brothel boss arranged for wealthy clients to meet up with prostitutes, who charged up to 1,500 dollars (£960) for their services.

It the process she amassed a fortune of 15 million dollars (£9.6 million) in personal profit, much of which has been squirrelled away, prosecutors have argued. That money, combined with an address book which lists the names of powerful and wealthy individuals, makes her a "substantial" flight risk, the court has previously heard.

But her lawyer argued that neither Gristina nor her family could afford the sum demanded for her release.

Since being arrested last month, Gristina has resided in Rikers Island prison. She has been in fear of her life at the jail as a result of incorrect stories linking her to the employment of under-age girls as prostitutes, her lawyers have said. Mr Greenwald said that his client was "emotionally upset" at the prison. In court, the petite defendant, dressed in a leaf-print blouse and with her blonde hair in a short bob, spoke only to her defence team.

At the hearing, her lawyer argued that the bail sum should be reduced, noting that a co-defendant had been released on a 100,000 dollar (£64,000) bail. Mr Greenwald suggested that family members including her husband and sister were willing to sign a pledge vowing any sum of the judge's choosing, but they were not in a position to come up with the actual cash amount.

The case was being heard at Manhattan Supreme Court.


From Belfast Telegraph