THREE people who tried to escape justice by fleeing abroad are now behind bars for involvement in a lucrative brothel.

Florea Sandu, 53, Florian Pietraru, 41, and Teodora Rotaru, 28, were originally held following a massive probe into Romanian women being exploited and trafficked into the UK.

Detectives linked the trio to a busy sex-for-sale flat in Motherwell, Lanarkshire, where scores of punters were captured on CCTV visiting.

Bank accounts used by two of them showed transactions totalling around £250,000.

Sandu, Pietraru and Rotaru initially appeared in the dock in 2021 and bailed on condition they surrender their passports and identification cards as well as sign on daily at a local police station.

They then successfully applied to have their ID documents returned.

Less than a fortnight later, it emerged the three had fled on a ferry from Dover to Dunkirk in France.

Police Scotland, the National Crime Agency as well as the authorities abroad teamed up in a huge hunt to trace them.

In late 2022 and early 2023, they were finally found in Romania and the Netherlands before being extradited back to Scotland to face justice.

Sandu, Pietraru and Rotaru pleaded guilty to a charge of being involvement in the management of a brothel during an appearance at the High Court in Glasgow.

The crime spanned between March 4 2020 and April 8 2021.

Prosecutors stated the charge was aggravated by a connection to serious organised crime, but accepted the trio's roles did not involve "human trafficking activity".

They were remanded in custody and will be sentenced in the New Year.

Advocate depute Paul Kearney KC  told the court: "An investigation was undertaken into a serious and organised crime group said to be involved in human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of Romanian women in off-street prostitution."

Three women were named in a charge in which not guilty pleas were accepted.

One was transported from John Lennon Airport in Liverpool and another from Edinburgh Airport. It is not known how the other arrived.

Initial inquiries picked up "suspicious activity" in a bank account in the name of Rotaru She was described as the "madam" who rented and was in charge of the day-to-day running of the brothel in Dalriada Crescent in Motherwell.

A total of 12 accounts were found held by her and Sandu.

It was discovered £79,202 was transferred to "third parties" with £171,676 coming in. Large cash withdrawals were also made.

Detectives found an advert had been placed on the Vivastreet website offering sex for sale at the flat. Kearney said: "Witnesses tell of speaking with a female, agreeing a fee and a time to attend.

"They speak to later meeting a female, handing over the agreed amount of money and having sex in a bedroom."

The court heard CCTV footage captured the "frequency" men turned up there. Pietraru was also involved in dropping off and then collecting women making "out calls" for sex.

The flat was eventually raided and officers seized a large amount of condoms, oils and mobile phones. A total of £2,370 and 200 Euros was further discovered.

Kearney: "The items found infer that the property was being used as a brothel and that the three accused were facilitating this for the Romanian women to work as sex workers.

"The evidence available clearly shows the actions of them in exploiting females as they run a brothel for financial gain."

Lady Stacey deferred sentencing for reports.