Two in court following joint operation in Northern Ireland
20th August 2014
Two Portadown men appeared before magistrates in Northern Ireland yesterday charged with a total of 50 offences following a joint investigation into suspected human trafficking and labour exploitation.
Samuil Covaci, aged 23, from Charles Street, and Ioan Lacatus, aged 31, from Hanover Street, each faced 12 people trafficking and 12 forced labour charges.
They have both also been charged with acting as a gangmaster without a licence, while Mr Lacatus faces a further count of concealing property contrary to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Both men deny the charges.
A third man, aged 27, was also arrested as part of the operation and has been released on police bail pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service.
In the past week, 20 Romanian nationals have been rescued by the police from two locations in county Armagh as part of an operation led by the Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI) assisted by GLA officers.
The 14 men and six women ranged in age from 20 to 48 and had been working in a meat processing factory.
Detective Inspector Todd Clements from Organised Crime Branch said: “This has been a fast-moving and complex operation which may continue for some time. The 20 people we have identified as potential victims of human trafficking for labour exploitation are in places of safety now. Our inquiries are continuing.”
Police have liaised with the UK Human Trafficking Centre and a number of other agencies to ensure the suspected trafficking victims are safe.
Additional translators have been flown to Northern Ireland from England to cope with the number of victims involved and the volume of information that needs to be processed.
Detectives from Organised Crime Branch also called on the GLA for assistance over the weekend as the workers had been supplied to the food processing industry.
Press release issued by GLA Communications and Information Officer Paul Fearn. For more information from the GLA contact 0115 959 7069 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to editors
1. The GLA operates throughout the UK and is a Non-Departmental Public Body.
2. The authority was formed in 2005 in the wake of the Morecambe Bay cockle picking disaster when 23 Chinese workers drowned on the sands.
3. The GLA licences companies that supply labour (gangmasters) for agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering as well as all associated processing and packaging.
4. Its main strategic priorities are to prevent worker exploitation, protect vulnerable people and tackle unlicensed and criminal activity.
5. Under the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act (2004), it is illegal both to operate as, or employ the services of, an unlicensed gangmaster.