A man and woman accused of controlling prostitution for gain, following their arrest during a police operation in Newry on Sunday, have been released on bail.
Police had objected to bail, with a detective constable outlining that it was believed the accused were part of a “large international organised crime gang” and involved in trafficking.
Chong Ho, 48, of Main Street in Maguiresbridge, and Xianjan Lin, 42, of Castletown Road in Dundalk, appeared charged with controlling prostitution for gain at Newry Magistrates’ on Monday, via videolink from police custody.
A detective constable confirmed that he believed he could connect both defendants to the charges before the court, with defence solicitor Ruairi Gillen stating a bail application would be made on their behalf.
It was outlined by the detective constable, that at 2am on October 18, police received a report of suspicious activity on Monaghan Street in Newry.
CCTV had observed a Land Rover Freelander stop on this street where two females alighted from the vehicle and approached an address.
One of the females entered the property, with the other returning to the Land Rover; this individual is believed to be the defendant, Ms Lin.
Police located the second female in the property with a male; it was believed that he had organised for the woman to attend his home using an escorts website.
A quantity of suspected Class A was also seized from the address, with this male being arrested and later charged with paying for sexual services and possession of a Class A Drug.
The two occupants of the Land Rover – the two defendants in court – were subsequently arrested and charged with controlling prostitution for gain.
Objecting to bail, the detective constable stated: “This is a serious indictable offence; it is also believed it could be linked to the trafficking of foreign nationals into this country for sexual exploitation.”
He also commented that police believed that the pair could be part of an “large international organised crime gang”.
It was outlined, that Ho had provided an address in Maguiresbridge with his wife, however, when spoken to by police, his wife stated they had separated three years ago, although he had visited his child at this address.
Linn put forward a bail address in Dundalk which was found to be a massage parlour. Police spoke to a person they believed was the owner and they claimed to have never heard of the defendant.
The detective constable commented there was a “fear of flight” but added that Mr Gillen had since spoken to the owner of the building, who confirmed that Ho and Linn ran the massage parlour.
It was heard that the female who had been inside the property had been interviewed by immigration, where it was discovered she was an illegal immigrant and had applied for political asylum in the Republic of Ireland.
The detective constable stated: “She has said she was not trafficked into this country but she also says she does not know how she got here, having passed through many airports before arriving in Dublin on October 5.
“Upon her arrival, her passport was taken from her and she has not seen it since.”
Mr Gillen commented: “There is nothing to suggest that these individuals are involved in trafficking. The mention of international crime gangs is interesting, it is something that is often heard when police have nothing of substance.”
It was outlined by the detective constable, that a “large number” of mobile phones had been seized during the operation, with four belonging to Linn, being located in a bag.
Mr Gillen stated: “Mr Ho claimed that he was an illegal taxi driver; he was taking this lady from Dundalk to Newry for €30. He sat and waited as he was promised another €30 for bringing her back to Dundalk.
“There is no suggestion of violence, no brothel involved, no poor living conditions and in the absence of all of these I would submit it is at the lower end of the scale.”
He continued: “There is absolutely nothing in this case to suggest that they are part of any gang or involved in trafficking, they haven’t even been asked the question with regards to these allegations.
“This has been done in order to widen the matter and there is absolutely nothing the PPS can ground out to make it anything more than a Magistrates’ case.”
District Judge Eamonn King stated: “This is an interesting case, with two Chinese nationals being charged with controlling prostitution for gain, involving another Chinese national.
“She arrived in the country on October 5, having traveled through a number airports and jurisdictions before arriving in the Republic of Ireland. She was referred to immigration and has applied for political asylum.”
He continued: “Mr Ho has a criminal record dating back to 2011, these are three matters for no insurance and the address he has given in the matrimonial home, with his estranged wife.
“Ms Linn is involved with a massage parlour in Dundalk, with Mr Ho, she wishes to return there where she will reside with her two children.”
Both defendants were granted their own bail of £2,500 with conditions including; to surrender their passports, to sign with police three times a week, to provide a phone number to police and a curfew between the hours of 10pm and 8am.
The case was subsequently adjourned until November 4 for an update from the prosecution.