Major police hunt into brothels finds 20 possible human trafficking victims in Northern Ireland

Belfast High Court pic - UTV
Belfast High Court

Twenty potential human trafficking victims have been identified in a major police offensive targeting brothels operated across Northern Ireland, the High Court heard today.

They were taken to properties arranged by a former sex worker who says she charged each woman £50 under her limited role as a “booking agent”, a judge was told.

But prosecutors said a total of £174,000 was transferred between Mavie Mariano and her co-accused, Gerald Corrigan.

Details emerged as Mariano, a 47-year-old Brazilian national of Rockview Crescent in Belleek, Co Armagh, was refused bail.

She faces charges of human trafficking, controlling prostitution, brothel keeping and money laundering between March 2020 and November 2022.

Mariano was arrested last week after 27 addresses were raided in the biggest operation of its kind by the PSNI.

In police interviews she admitted to arranging short-term property rentals for other escorts to work at.

The women were each paid a £50 fee for the service, according to her, and were then driven to the locations by 62-year-old Corrigan, from Park View in Pomeroy, Co Tyrone.

Crown lawyer Connel Trainor claims the pair formed part of a larger organised crime group.

Challenging the bail application, he expressed concern about potential interference with the investigation into an illicit trade involving foreign nationals.

“There are another 20 potential escorts who have been identified, but they are difficult to pin down given their transient lifestyle,” he disclosed.

Mr Justice Fowler was also told Mariano recently returned from a trip to Turkey to undergo expensive surgery.

A defence barrister said she was known to the other women as a former sex worker with a good command of the English language.

He claimed they had approached her to arrange properties for them to “ply their trade.”

“She exercised no control over these sex workers, violence and coercion is not an aspect in this case,” counsel insisted.

This defendant was accused of being used as the travel or booking agent for the individuals involved in the sex work.

The court heard premises were rented out at a rate of £500 for a week.

Arguing that Mariano had no trappings of wealth, the barrister added: “The money transferred is being used to pay for the properties, as opposed to being put away into secret bank accounts.

”Bail was denied, however, due to the risks of flight and re-offending.

Mr Justice Fowler said: “This is an abhorrent crime against vulnerable individuals, and there are sums of money to the tune of £174,000 involved.

“This is money that has arisen as the result of exploitation, on the face of it.”

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