A Turkish hairdresser was fined £500 today for helping to run a brothel from his Belfast City Centre apartment.
Ferhat Ekici (34) pleaded guilty to assissting in the management of a brothel and also possessing criminal property.
Belfast Crown Court heard police raided Ekici’s apartment at Ashbourne Place, off the Dublin Road, on May 24, 2011 as part of a major European-wide investigation into prostitution.
Prosecuting counsel Philip Henry said the investigation centred on women being brought in from the Czech Republic to Belfast via Dublin to work as prostitutes.
One of two Czech women found in Ekici’s flat told police that she was instructed to get a bus from Dublin to the Europa Bus Centre in Belfast where she was to be picked up by Bronislav Rybensky who is currently awaiting sentence on brothel running charges.
Mr Henry told Recorder Judge David McFarland that the woman said she was to be taken to a brothel but there was a last minute change of plan when it was raided by police searching for drugs.
She was then taken to Ekici’s apartment by Rynensky who had got to know the defendant through his mobile hairdressing work.
The court heard that when her first client turned up, Ekici turned him away only for Rybensky arrive and a discussion took place.
“It was then agreed to Ekici’s apartment for prostitution.”
Ekici arrived home from work that night to find his apartment being raided by the PSNI’s Organisd Crime Branch. His car was searched and £670 in cash was found in a rucksack.
During police interviews in September 2011, Ekici claimed he met the two Czech women at a night club in Belfast.
Defence counself John Orr QC said Ekici was a reluctant participant in the running of the brothel and was the “tail end of the tail end” of the prostitution racket.
“These women were to be housed in another apartment,” said Mr Qrr.
“But while en route Mr Rybensky’s brother was involved in some drugs escapade and this apartment was being searched by police.
“As a result, the defendant was prevailed upon by Mr Rybensky to take these women into his apartment.”
Judge McFarland said Ekici’s offences were at the lower end of the scale even though he had agreed to allow his apartment to be used for prostition.
The judge said he didn’t believe an immediate custody sentence was needed and fined Ekici £250 on each of the two counts. He also made a forfeiture order for the £670.
Speaking outside court, Ekici said: “I am very, very glad I am not going to prison. I will never get involved with these type of people again.”
Co-accused Bronislav Rybenskey (31), c/o Maghaberry Prison, pleaded guilty last week to running a brothel at College Green Central Aparments, Belfast.
He also admitted trafficking women into Northern Ireland for prostitution, controlling prostitution for financial gain and possession of criminal property.
He will be sentenced in January, 2014.