Three men jailed for trafficking into Ireland

 

THREE MEN have been sentenced in Romania for up to seven years for trafficking 28 people – including one child – into Co Wexford for labour exploitation.

Remus Fusteac (41) was jailed for seven years, while his son Arthur Sergiu (21) and nephew Alexandru Fusteac (20) were both sentenced to five years for trafficking, illegal possession of firearms and organising a criminal syndicate.

The three had previously been deported from Ireland in 2004 after being investigated for money-laundering.

The court in Timisoara in western Romania heard trafficked victims were threatened, beaten and sometimes held at gunpoint between 2006 and 2008.

Some were allegedly employed in low-paid farming and labouring jobs around Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, and forced to repay debts of about €2,500 each.

Romanian authorities say only one-third of their victims agreed to give evidence against the traffickers after gang members threatened their families.

The investigation was started by the Romanian authorities in September 2007. Police from Romania travelled to Ireland in June 2008 and worked closely with the Garda National Immigration Bureau in Dublin to plan a joint effort to disrupt the criminal activity.

Co-ordinated searches and raids were organised throughout July and August of 2008, both in Romania and Ireland, resulting in arrests in both jurisdictions.

“Evidence obtained by gardaí was made available, on request from the Romanian prosecution, and was exchanged through the mutual assistance channels,” according to a spokesperson for the Romanian embassy.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern yesterday congratulated gardaí for their work and said “tireless efforts” were being made to combat the trafficking of people into and within Ireland.

“The Government is committed to the continued development of an overall strategy to proactively and comprehensively address the issue of human trafficking, utilising all the resources of the State,” Mr Ahern said.

“Our aim is to make Ireland a more hostile environment for those who might consider trafficking people into, out of, and within, the jurisdiction.”

Members of Garda National Immigration Bureau have also praised Romanian authorities for their assistance in investigating the case.

Prosecutors told the court in Romania that those who were trafficked into Ireland were mostly housed in caravans, and that the gang controlled their contact with employers.

One victim told the court: “We only had money for some very basic food. We lived on a diet of potatoes and eggs as we could not afford anything more.

“We lived in constant fear. We were always being threatened. They would tell us that if we did anything wrong or tried to tell anyone, our houses back home would be set on fire and our family and children would be killed.”

Another said: “One time I refused to pay up and one of them put a gun against my head and threatened me. I don’t want to remember any more how they treated us. It was terrifying.

One victim reportedly said: “Remus Fusteac would always tell us there was nothing we could do and that any Romanian who came to work in Ireland had to work for him, that he was all-powerful in Ireland.”

Prosecutor Tamas Schiffbeck said many of the victims have refused to press charges because of continuous pressure and threats from the traffickers.

Some witnesses have received death threats too, he said.

“The people were taken, legally, to Budapest and from there were flown to Ireland.

“Once they arrived, they were given accommodation in old shacks and put to work. The gang extorted most of their wages,” he added.