Detectives from PSNI Organised Crime Branch have welcomed the sentences imposed by a court in Sweden on two Romanians for human trafficking and aggravated pimping offences in Belfast and Stockholm.
Ilie Ionut, 31, and Ancuta Schwarz, 28, were each jailed for four years.
Schwarz was arrested in Belfast earlier this year and extradited to Sweden. Ionut was arrested 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 pimps when they transferred money to foreign countries.
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 was getting 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 told the woman that there would be no web-cam work, only selling sex.
Prosecutors said the 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.
According to Swedish police, the couple nicknamed the 21-year-old witness “Skinny” because her undeveloped body resembled that of a young girl; her very young appearance was in huge demand with men buying sex from the gang. Ionut was accused of sending a serious threat to the witness from his prison cell.
Ionut and Schwarz were accused of sexually exploiting a dozen very poor Romanian women over an extended period of time for significant profits. Prosecutors say they earned a million Krona from just one woman in only 100 days.
Schwarz booked hotels and apartments, and placing internet adverts while Ionut managed his business while living temporarily in Galway and later Belfast.
They exploited their victim in Stockholm and Northern Ireland, through threats and violence. She was isolated, had no money or documents and was dependent on her abusers.
Five members of the public were also charged with buying sexual services from the gang in Stockholm. Three of them were convicted in court and fined.
Speaking in Stockholm, Detective Chief Inspector Douglas Grant, from Organised Crime Branch, said: “I am delighted to be here in Sweden today to acknowledge a successful outcome to a joint operation involving the PSNI and Swedish police.” He said that PSNI officers will now be involved in discussions with the Public Prosecution Service in Belfast to explore how matters may be progressed in Northern Ireland.
“For this reason, I am unable to comment further.”