Pair charged over largest NI human trafficking raid

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Human trafficking raids
Image caption,
Twenty-seven brothels were raided across Northern Ireland on Monday

Two people have appeared in court in connection with the PSNI's largest operation against human trafficking.

Gerard Corrigan and Maive Martins Mariano are accused of brothel keeping, human trafficking, controlling prostitution and money laundering.

On Monday, 27 brothels were raided across Northern Ireland.

Some 150 officers were involved in the operation, with most alleged victims, including women and transgender individuals, coming from Brazil.

Corrigan is 62 and from Park View in Pomeroy, County Tyrone, while Mariano is 47 and from Rockview Crescent in Belleek, County Armagh.

The offences are alleged to have taken place between 23 March 2020 and 21 November 2022.

Police believe people were targeted due to their immigration status and lack of English language skills.

The court was told financial enquiries revealed a large amount of money in the region of £174,000 was transferred between the two suspects.

Image caption,
The raids took place in towns and cities across Northern Ireland

CCTV footage has allegedly shown Gerard Corrigan involved in transporting persons on many instances to brothels and Mariano is believed to have arranged accommodation for escorts in return for money.

She has admitted being in regular contact with escorts and arranging short-term rentals for sex work and making financial gain.

'Driving force behind operation'

A detective told the court police believe if the suspects were released they would "reoffend immediately".

"We suspect they are part of a wider organised crime gang who are actively being investigated by our colleagues," they continued.

"As part of that a female recently presented to police indicating she was a victim of trafficking for sexual exploitation."

Mr Corrigan's defence pointed out he has a clear record and is in very poor health, for which he receives state benefits.

The detective confirmed he made "partial admissions" when interviewed, although the defence argued these were "very substantial admissions".

Referring to Mariano, the detective described her as "the suspected driving force behind the operation in Northern Ireland".

Her defence claimed women would come to her asking them to make bookings for her due to language issues and for this she would receive around £50.

District Judge Peter Magill refused bail for both accused and they will appear again by videolink on 21 December.

A 37-year-old woman arrested in Londonderry on Tuesday on suspicion of offences including human trafficking and money laundering has been released on bail.