Two leading members of an alleged human trafficking gang suspected of operating in Belfast and Sweden have denied all charges against them at trial in Stockholm.
Ilie Ionut, 31, the alleged leader of the gang, and his alleged lieutenant Ancuta Schwarz, 28, are facing charges of human trafficking, prostitution and aggravated procuring. Both are Romanian nationals.
When Schwarz was led into the courtroom, dressed in a black leather jacket with studs as the trial opened, she smiled, while Ionut laughed.
But when the first prosecution point — aggravated pimping — was read out, he became serious. He listened closely when prosecutor Eva Wintzell accused the pair of having recruited women into prostitution, booked trips to and from Sweden, rented apartments and arranged contact with sex buyers via the internet.
The prosecutor suggested that the two defendants used, threatened, pulled the hair of and spat on a victim aged 21.
Only one of the women they allegedly recruited has testified. According to the indictment, the 21 -year-old woman, nicknamed “Skinny”, received around 65,000 euros by selling sex to men in Gothenburg and Stockholm, but the bulk of the money was taken by the couple. Schwarz is accused of sending large sums to Ionut in Romania.
Ionut’s lawyer, Bjorn Stock Ling, insisted his client was a gigolo and not a pimp.
Police intercepted phone calls and photographed the suspected pimps when they transferred money to foreign countries.
In April this year Schwarz was arrested in Belfast and was then transferred to Sweden. Ionut was arrested in May in Bucharest.
The couple were arrested after extensive cooperation between police in Sweden and Northern Ireland.
According to the prosecutor Eva Wintzell, the hardest part in this and similar cases is to get the victims to testify.
The 21-year-old woman who testified against them avoided eye contact with the accused when the prosecutor told how they lured her to Northern Ireland to work posing for a web camera and promised a large income.
But when she got there, Schwarz allegedly told the woman that there would be no web posing, only selling sex.
Prosecutors said the alleged victim told her boyfriend by text that she had been psychologically broken and that Schwarz pushed her to work harder, and hit her to wake her up for work.
In April, Schwarz told Belfast Crown Court she denied all charges against her, as she was being extradited to Sweden to be tried.