Dublin taxi driver appears in court in Belfast on human trafficking charge

A Dublin taxi driver has appeared in court in the North charged with human trafficking.

Chee Seng Chan (aged 51) from Greenlawn, Dublin, is accused of arranging and facilitating the travel of a woman into the UK for sexual exploitation last May.

Speaking through an interpreter, the Malaysian national told a judge at Belfast Magistrates' Court he understood the charge.

Chan was arrested in Belfast by detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland's (PSNI) human trafficking branch.

A detective constable from the specialist unit said he believed he could connect him to the charge.

Outlining objections to bail, the officer alleged Chan was a member of an organised crime gang.

Police also had concerns he could flee the jurisdiction to avoid a lengthy jail term, if convicted; could interfere with the main witness in the case and may attempt to destroy evidence presently online.

The detective said: "We believe he is part of an organised crime gang and as such could obtain documents that would enable him to leave the island of Ireland."

District Judge Fiona Bagnall was told PSNI investigations were continuing and that attempts were being made to identify other alleged gang members and potential victims.

Interpol is also involved.

The PSNI officer said he believed Chan could reoffend if bailed.

"Human trafficking is lucrative and we believe, if released on bail, he would take that up again," he said.

Throughout the brief hearing, dark-haired, unshaven Chan stood in the dock with his arms by his side flanked by two prison guards.

His defence solicitor Mark Crawford described the case as "weak".

The lawyer said police had not yet obtained a "crucial" piece of evidence, namely a signed statement from the alleged victim, who is understood to be living in Taiwan.

Chan has strong ties to the Republic of Ireland, where he works as a taxi driver, the court heard.

Mr Crawford added: "He is an Irish citizen. He has an Irish passport. He obviously likes it here; he likes the weather."

Refusing bail, the judge said there was a genuine risk of flight and that potential evidence could be pursued or destroyed.

However, Judge Bagnall said: "There needs to be a lot of diligence as to how this case is progressed."

Chan is due to appear again via videolink on October 17.

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