Slavery accused is granted bail

Craigavon Courthouse.

Craigavon Courthouse.

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A Romanian national accused of people trafficking has been granted bail despite allegations that he had intimidated witnesses.

Samuil Covaci, who lives at 241 Charles Street, Portadown, is accused of conspiracy to traffick within the UK and two counts of trafficking people into the UK for exploitation.

Craigavon Courthouse. INPT21-239.

Craigavon Courthouse. INPT21-239.

He is accused that between May 1 2014 and August 15 this year he conspired to arrange or facilitate the travel within the UK of migrant workers intending to exploit them.

Nine men and three women allegedly enslaved and denied wages were rescued after police moved in on a three-bedroom semi-detached property on Charles Street.

A total of 20 people were said to be living in cramped conditions with little or no food and sub-standard hygiene conditions, a previous court heard. His co-accused Ioan Lacatus has since been granted bail. Craigavon Crown Court heard on Monday that Covaci had been living in the house in Charles Street with the alleged victims and kept them in poor conditions.

A prosecutor, objecting to bail, said Covaci had acted as an enforcer and had threatened the workers. They were driven to a meat processing plant in Downpatrick but never saw their wages.

The prosecutor said, “He (Covaci) was like a minder - a physical presence in the house.” He said the victims were “unsophisticated people of a peasant background”. He further claimed that relatives had been offered bribes.

The prosecution lawyer said nine of the victims had been repatriated, however one person had borrowed money to out of Romania to come to Northern Ireland and get away from Covaci’s family. He also told the court that Covaci’s brother had attacked some victims with pitchfork and axes. “Some were hospitalised.”

Covaci’s wife had a phone on speaker and a victim could hear Covaci say that he would wipe her off the face of the earth.

A defence barrister said his client has spent 15 months in custody. The judge granted Cavaci bail with strict conditions.