INLA brothel suspects have skipped bail say PSNI

An INLA show of strength in West Belfast in 2004. Photo: Pacemaker.
An INLA show of strength in West Belfast in 2004. Photo: Pacemaker.

The PSNI has issued warrants for two suspects arrested in a crack-down on the INLA who have gone missing while on bail.

The pair were among eight people detained following searches in Belfast, Lisburn, Crumlin and Newtownabbey in April 2018.

DUP MLA Lord Maurice Morrow has asked why police did not announce the suspects were missing.

DUP MLA Lord Maurice Morrow has asked why police did not announce the suspects were missing.

Cristina-Teodora Musa, 22, of Agincourt Avenue in south Belfast was charged with brothel-keeping and controlling the prostitution of three women while Florin Ghita, 32, of Agincourt Avenue, was charged with concealing criminal property.

The pair, who were on bail, failed to appear at a hearing at Laganside Courts and warrants for their arrest were issued on 6 March.

However Lord Morrow, who has campaigned against human trafficking and sexual exploitation, said he was “utterly stunned at the apparent complacency of PSNI” and asked why there was “no announcement on the disappearance of them whilst on bail”.

He also queried the separate case of Jahfer Baleed (26) of Riverdale House, Dunmurry, who was convicted in October 2018 of trying to obtain sex for payment from a 14-year-old school girl. A warrant has also been issued for his arrest. A PSNI spokeswoman responded that a bench warrant is issued when someone fails to attend court and police then take reasonable steps to find them.

“People wanted on warrant for failing to appear can have their image released to the media, in certain circumstances such as where all other conventional means of tracing the person have been tried or there is a risk to the public,” she said.

Any release to the media is reviewed by an Assistant Chief Constable to maintain public confidence, she said. Each decision is made on a case by case basis and kept under review.

She added that all three suspects are understood to be outside the country and that the PSNI is liaising with the relevant authorities to secure their return.

It is not the first time in recent memory that suspects in terror-related investigations have vanished.

In 2017, the News Letter exposed the scandal of how previously-convicted republican dissident paramilitary Damien McLaughlin vanished while on bail awaiting trial on charges linked to the 2012 murder of David Black.

The newspaper revealed in detail the blunders of the authorities, who did not even realise he was missing for weeks, and his own criminal past.

McLaughlin was eventually acquitted in relation to the Black charges.