Witnesses return to Romania

Ioan Lacatus
Ioan Lacatus

Witnesses in a case against two alleged gangmasters have returned to Romania, Craigavon Magistrates Court heard last Friday.

But a detective constable said she believed they would come to the court for the trial.

A public prosecutor said that the file had been submitted to a senior prosecutor who was asking for a four week adjournment to consider the evidence and give a decision.

District Judge, Mr Desmond Perry, said that this had been a very long running case.

The prosecutor replied this was because of the nature of the offences and recently there were further inquiries in respect of other parties.

A barrister representing one of the defendants said he understood that out of the 12 complainants nine or ten of them were not in the jurisdiction any more.

A detective constable told the court that out of the 12 complainants only one remained in the UK and he was on the mainland.

She said six had returned to Romania shortly after the arrests and four weeks ago another five returned home.

The officer added that she was the process of writing to all the witnesses. She had spoken to the person who remained and this witness still wanted to pursue his complaint but he had been contacted by members of the Covaci family.

Three other complainants were also spoken to by the Covaci family, she alleged. They had come back and tried to get jobs but had a problem with English and returned to Romania.

“I believe they will come back for a trial,” she commented.

Some had been ill informed by the Covaci family that the case had been completed, she claimed.

Judge Perry said he would adjourn the matter for a week to obtain an update on the preparedness of the witnesses to return to Northern Ireland.

He added that the defendants had been in custody since August and he was very unhappy with the situation.

Adjourning a bail application for one week to March 5 he commented that he was not particularly happy the family of one of the defendants talking to one of the potential prosecution witnesses.

Samuil Covaci (24), Charles Street, Portadown, and Ioan Lacatus (31), Hanover Street, Portadown, appeared by way of videolink from Maghaberry prison.

Both are charged with trafficking people, forced labour and acting as a gangmaster.

Christina Nicoleta Covaci (29), Hanover Street, Portadown, appeared by videolink from Hydebank.

She is charged with using criminal property, namely cash, and arranging to acquire criminal property between May 23 and October 21 last year.