Alleged extortionist on disability benefits is refused bail

Court
Court

A Co Antrim man accused of targeting building sites in an extortion racket has failed in a new bid to be released from custody.

Brian Gillan, 60, was seeking bail on charges of blackmail, brothel keeping and possessing criminal property.

But a High Court judge refused his application amid concerns over potential interference with witnesses.

Referring to the blackmail allegations, Mr Justice McAlinden said: “This type of offending... is a scourge on our society.”

Gillan, of Lurgan Road in Glenavy, was arrested in April during a series of police raids across Co Antrim and Belfast.

Police observations, photographs and witness statements allegedly link him to the extortion of construction sites from September 2017 until his arrest, previous courts heard.

Prosecutors claimed evidence shows him attending businesses in the Crumlin and Glenavy areas each Friday to make collections.

Police investigations show these building sites are blackmailed to pay money under the guise of protection money, it was contended.

Crown lawyer Robin Steer said today: “If they don’t pay the site is either damaged or property is stolen.”

Gillan, who is on disability benefits, was said to have had up to £1000 in cash on him when he was detained.

He is also separately accused of keeping a brothel operated at Agincourt Avenue in Belfast.

According to the prosecution he arranged the lease on the premises said to have been run by Florin Ghita, 32, and 23-year-old Christina-Teodora Musa - both Romanian nationals.

Gillan allegedly placed Romanian prostitutes in the property and collected £1,000 a month, from which he paid out half in rent.

During police interviews he insisted that he knew nothing about any sex work going on at the address.

Gillan denies all of the charges against him.

Defence counsel Jonathan Browne said his client had been in a romantic relationship with Musa, holidaying with her in Romania and believing Ghita to be her cousin.

Turning to the blackmail allegations, the barrister stressed there is no evidence of any paramilitary involvement.

“Mr Gillan has not been charged with any form of membership of a proscribed or illegal organisation,” he told the court.

The fresh application for bail was based on delays in the case.

But ruling that the defendant must remain in custody, Mr Justice McAlinden said: “Any delay in this particular case up to the present time does not constitute any significant prejudice to the applicant.”