Two Romanian nationals remanded in Armagh 'trafficking' case

Two men have been remanded in custody charged with a string of people trafficking and forced labour offences in the North.

The pair who are Romanian nationals faced more than 50 charges when they appeared before Lisburn Magistrates’ Court.

Ioan Lacatus, 31, whose address was given as Hanover Street, Portadown, Co Armagh and Samuil Covaci, 23, from Charles Street, also in Portadown, are each accused of 12 counts of people trafficking as well as 12 forced labour charges. They also face charges of acting as an unlicensed gang master.

Lacatus, a father of three young children, faces a further charge of concealing criminal property contrary to the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The pair, who deny the charges, were arrested as part of a major police operation which recovered 20 potential trafficking victims from two locations in Co Armagh last week. The 14 men and six women were also from Romania and ranged in age from 20 to 48.

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.

The alleged offences took place in a period between May 31, 2014 and August 15, 2014.

Acting for Lacatus, defence solicitor Paul McCann said his client had denied all charges 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.

Both men stood in the dock as the charges were read out and translated.

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 the interpreter he could not because his trousers were falling down.

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

His solicitor raised concerns for the the safety of his wife and family in light of his arrest but an application to prevent the release of 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 are due to re-appear via videolink at Craigavon Magistrates’ Court on August 29.

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