A man was cleared yesterday of helping to run a prostitution ring in Northern Ireland in which girls had been trafficked here with the promise of legitimate jobs.

The Belfast Crown Court jury were directed by Mr Justice Stephens to acquit Fai Chan, of south Belfast, after the prosecution offered no evidence in his case.

Mr Chan, who had denied aiding and abetting the control of prostitutes for gain on separate occasions between January 2008 and May 2009, was one of originally four accused.

Last week a former policeman Simon Dempsey, of Newtownards, pleaded guilty to two similar charges and to entering into an arrangement with another accused, Rong Chen to control criminal property by lodging monies on her behalf.

On Monday Chen, with an address in Kidderminster, England, pleaded guilty to controlling the activities of prostitutes for gain, trafficking people within the UK, and to entering into an arrangement with Dempsey.

She had faced six other charges arising out of the operation of the prostitution ring but the court was told the prosecution did not intend to proceed with them and they should remain “on the books”.

A fourth accused Jason Owen Hinton, with the same Kidderminister address as Chen, also pleaded guilty to charges of aiding and abetting.

He too, like Chen and Dempsey, has been released on continuing bail.

It was only yesterday, following Mr Chan’s acquittal that the previous guilty pleas of his former co-accused could be mentioned once reporting restriction were lifted.

The charges arise out of an PSNI led, UK-wide investigation into a Chinese prostitute ring, which resulted in numerous raids in May 2009 on properties in both Derry and Belfast.

Although no details of the case have been given to the court, at a previous High Court hearing it was claimed that following the raids six prostitutes, all believed to be Chinese women, were rescued.

The court also heard allegations that the women had all been duped into coming to Northern Ireland after they answered job advertisements in England.

The High Court also heard that Chen was allegedly “the controller” while Dempsey was akin to an enforcer, although it was also claimed that both blamed each other for their involvement.