A high-profile trafficking case where airport police officers were accused of turning a blind eye on an illegal prostitution ring drew to a close this week, with most defendants acquitted including a cop whose guilt was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case dates back to 2018 when police officers at Larnaca International Airport and pub owners in Nicosia were among suspects in a sex trafficking case, involving an illegal network said to have been bringing in Eastern European women for sex work.
After a total of nine defendants and close to a hundred charges initially filed with a criminal court in Nicosia four years ago, only two defendants remained in the case, with a police officer being acquitted and a pub owner admitting only labor violations.
Details in the case pointed to an alleged illegal network that trafficked Eastern European women, mostly from Ukraine and Moldova, including a woman who worked at a pub twice while on a tourist visa.
The lawyer said card access registered to his client was circumstantial evidence, arguing that individual codes were routinely shared by others at the airport and could not serve as a basis for guilt
According to Reporter, the last remaining officer on the stand was acquitted this week after his lawyer argued a Ukrainian woman had failed to pick him out of a police lineup.
Additional arguments were raised regarding card access data and timelines at the airport that failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the officer was the one who “delivered” the Ukrainian woman, who had been denied entry by the defendant back in December 2017 according to his log files.
The lawyer said card access registered to his client was circumstantial evidence, arguing that uniquely individual codes were routinely shared by others at the airport and could not serve as a basis for guilt.
“Access codes in the electronic database remain strong circumstantial evidence, however, in light of additional testimony, this in and of itself does not lead only to the inescapable conclusion of guilt that would be incompatible with another conclusion,” the criminal court concluded.
Charges included conspiracy to commit a crime, corruption, human trafficking, abuse of authority, sexual exploitation, bribery, and assisting an alien to illegally enter into the Republic of Cyprus.
The other remaining defendant in the case, a pub owner in Nicosia, denied all charges except work-related offences such as labor exploitation of third country nationals and assisting an illegal alien.
He had been investigated for running an illegal prostitution ring on business premises where trafficked women were said to be living upstairs on a higher floor of the establishment.
Based on the acquittal of the police officer on all charges, including conspiracy, the court pointed out that the pub owner -the only remaining suspect in the case- could not face conspiracy charges alone.
While prostitution is not illegal in the Republic of Cyprus, sex trafficking is an offense punishable by local and EU law.