Northern Ireland

Restaurateur Matyas Pis denies vice ring charges

Court statue

A Dublin-based restaurateur transported foreign women into Belfast to work in the sex trade, the High Court in Belfast has been told.

Prosecutors claimed Matyas Pis was part of a crime gang who ran a vice-ring involving Hungarian nationals.

PSNI and Garda detectives are to meet on Wednesday as part of a wider investigation into suspected human trafficking, a judge was told.

Mr Pis is charged with two counts of controlling prostitution for gain.

The 37-year-old Hungarian national, with an address at Gaybrook Lawns, Dublin, was refused bail while the investigation continues.

Metropolitan police were first informed by the Hungarian Embassy that a woman who travelled to Belfast to work in a restaurant had allegedly been forced into a brothel, the court heard.

Inquiries established that she first arrived in Dublin last month with another female on flights booked by Mr Pis, it was claimed.

He then allegedly drove them to Belfast, with a witness in the case claiming other women had also spent a night at his house before moving on.

Titanic apartment

Although Mr Pis went to police in the city after being contact by Irish police, it was alleged that he first cleared out an apartment in the Titanic Quarter.

Two women, who went with Mr Pis to the PSNI station, claimed they had been working as prostitutes at the apartment for the previous week, a crown lawyer said.

Searches of the accused's car recovered mobile phones, sex aids, SIM cards with different girls' names attached to each, a laptop computer and lists of names, according to the prosecution.

A cashbox contained about 1,000 euros was also seized.

'Criminal gang'

Conor Maguire, prosecuting, said the women's services had been advertised on an escort website, with one of them saying she had also plied her trade in Belfast during December and January and paid rent to Mr Pis.

"Police would say that it is a criminal gang and has demonstrated in quite a sophisticated way an ability to transport victims in and out of Northern Ireland using various routes and pre-paid credit cards," he told police.

Mark Farrell, defending, stressed that his client denied being part of a crime gang and has not been charged with the more serious human trafficking offences.

He said Mr Pis voluntarily went to police, with the two women going with him in an attempt to "exonerate him from any wrongdoing".

He added: "If he is guilty of a crime, he is guilty of assisting two willing prostitutes in carrying out their business without gain, without financial reward to him."

But refusing bail, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said the police inquiry was still at an early stage.

The judge pointed out: "What is being investigated here is an (alleged) course of conduct involving a significant number of women, with the position in relation to the degree of exploitation not yet ascertained."