NewsCrime Desk

Irish vice trade controlled by five mobs

llie Ionut and Ancuta Schwarz
llie Ionut and Ancuta Schwarz

FIVE major vice gang members are behind three-quarters of the sex-for-sale business in Ireland, according to data taken from the most popular website used to advertise prostitution.

One gang this week has links to 80 advertised women and more than 10 transgender prostitutes, who can each make €1,000 a day,

Ireland’s multi-million euro vice trade is set for a massive blow as a new law to make it illegal to buy sex is due before the Dáil this week.

The cash from Ireland’s lucrative sex trade is going directly into the coffers of international criminal gangs, it has been revealed in research carried out for the Sunday World.

Highly organised gangsters are controlling the vast majority of Ireland’s vice trade and making millions from prostitutes.

Sarah Benson of Ruhama – an agency that helps women in prostitution – said “it’s of no surprise to us whatsoever” when asked about the level of involvement by criminal gangs.

“We are definitely seeing an increase in the number of Eastern European women. They are being highly controlled and moved frequently, so they are kept very isolated,” she told the Sunday World.

“They have created a market for selling at very low prices, which indicates a degree of vulnerability and a lack of autonomy for the women.”

Two of the vice gangs also have a significant presence in the U.K.’s sex trade, according to the Sunday World research.

Despite the upbeat messages posted online to drum up business, the gangsters involved have shown their readiness to use violence to keep the cash flowing in.

Thug Ioan Anton (34), a Romanian national living in Co. Tyrone has been linked to one of the big vice trade operations. Despite being twice linked to a gang running brothels in Ireland, he has denied any involvement.

He is facing trial in Northern Ireland later this month, where he is charged with an attempt to blow up an ATM in a botched robbery.

Anton was caught on camera as he collected and drove women to work as prostitutes at various locations, including Dublin and Cavan.

Romanian and Brazilian gangs are dominating the Irish sex trade on both sides of the border, where the data culled from the website suggests that just 10 per cent of advertised prostitutes are independent operators.

Another Romanian couple, Ionut Ilie and Ancuta Schwarz, were extradited to Belfast earlier this year after police there launched an investigation into the sleazy operation in 2013.

They had been jailed in Sweden before being sent back to face trafficking charges in Northern Ireland.

Police were alerted to their vice operation after a woman told of being abducted by the gang and forced to work in brothels, while threats were made to her mother in Romania.

At one point she was kept in an apartment in Galway where Ilie and Schwarz ran their lucrative operation at the time.

They were given two-year sentences after admitting controlling prostitution, trafficking and sending cash to Romania via wire transfers.

This week in Northern Ireland, sex industry campaigner Laura Lee won a High Court case to allow her mount a challenge to new laws that make it illegal to pay for sex.

Lee is claiming the so-called Nordic model puts prostitutes in danger.

Similar legislation has been planned in the Republic after an all-party committee recommended it as the best approach to curb the activities of organised vice gangs.

Sinn Fein senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said the Nordic model is working in other countries.

 “The reality is that there are very dangerous criminal gangs driving this. The vast majority of women who are in prostitution are foreign nationals who are forced to live in the shadows,” he said.

“I’m hopeful by the end of the year this legislation will be in place across the island of Ireland.”

This week research was also published in the U.K. which revealed how organised criminal gangs are encouraging the trafficking of women.

The research by the Police Foundation think-tank showed that three-quarters of brothels had links to organised crime.

It also revealed that prostitutes’ movements were controlled by brothels in a third of cases.

Irish pimp TJ Carroll, who ran 15 brothels in Ireland from his U.K. base, used the threat of violence to keep prostitutes under control.

The women would hand over cash to a bagman once a week and get instructions by text or over the phone about where to go to next. One young African woman told police how she had literally been sold to his vice operation.

Carroll is currently serving a lengthy prison term in the U.K.