By Claire Henry & Brion Hoban
A married couple oversaw and ran nine brothels in the Dublin area, a court has heard.
Hani Ali Showky (45) and his wife Nicolina Velic (25) ran nine brothels and a total of 25 escorts were at the brothels at the time of the investigation.
Showky and Velic, both of Abbot Court, Cualanor, Dun Laoghaire, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the running of brothels and organisation of prostitution at various locations in Co Dublin.
They also pleaded guilty to money laundering and the use of false instruments such as bank statements, references, payslips from a fake company, a UK driving licence, amended revenue tax certificate and a UK passport.
The couple were charged after gardaí served a warrant on one of the properties.
In total, nine properties were searched and 18 statements were taken from escorts working at the brothels.
The court heard that Showky had rented eight properties from landlords using fake bank statements and references and would then sublet them to the escorts at a rate of €700 per escort per week.
Showky would also drive escorts between the different properties and inform them when rooms became available.
He also set up a company in June 2016 to facilitate a money laundering scheme. This company was dissolved in December 2019, and approximately €114,000 per year passed through the company accounts.
It is estimated that both accused were making a total of €5,000 in profit per week from the running of the brothels. Showky has 31 previous convictions which occurred in both Ireland and the UK.
The court heard that the two accused had not coerced or trafficked the women concerned.
Furthermore, the escorts would place advertisements on Escorts Ireland, and the accused had no part in this. None of the women who were working as escorts were illegal immigrants.
A detective garda agreed with Seamus Clarke SC, defending Showky, that his client was originally from Egypt and had obtained a computer engineering degree in Cairo.
He arrived in Ireland in 2011 and has two children from a previous marriage who live in the UK with his now ex-wife.
He met his co-accused Velic in 2015 and began a relationship. They were married in 2019 and Velic gave birth to a baby boy in 2020.
Dean Kelly SC, defending Velic, told the court his client was originally from Romania and came from a broken home. Her mother left home when she was 12 years of age.
Mr Kelly said his client completed her education in Romania and then travelled to Ireland at the age of 20 when she met her now-husband when he was aged 40.
He said she has no previous conviction and was unknown to the gardaí before this investigation, is the sole career for her child and has no family supports in Ireland.
Passing sentence today, Judge Pauline Codd outlined the degree of planning carried out by both of the accused and that none of the landlords knew that their properties were being used as brothels.
The judge noted the scant regard of using false documents, the duration of the conduct and living off illicit earnings.
She considered the mitigating factors when sentencing Showky, such as his early guilty plea, his personal circumstances, that he has taken full responsibility for the crime as well as the death of his mother while he has been in custody.
Judge Codd sentenced Showky to five years imprisonment, but suspended the final 12 months of the sentence on strict conditions.
When sentencing Velic, the judge noted that she was not as actively involved as her husband and that she was under his influence.
She noted that Velic is the mother of a young child with no family support in Ireland.
Judge Codd sentenced Velic to four years imprisonment, but suspended the sentence in its entirety on strict conditions.