NEWS:Prostitution Scandal Stuns Greece

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Jyothi Kanics---Global Survival Network (jkanics@igc.apc.org)
Fri, 20 Nov 1998 07:36:32 -0800 (PST)


http://www.newsday.com/ap/rnmpin01.htm

Prostitution Scandal Stuns Greece

                          By BRIAN MURPHY Associated Press Writer

                          ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- The young woman's world was
                          closing in around her.

                          She left Russia with the promise of a job in Greece,
authorities
                          say. It turned out to be prostitution. Then she was
stashed in a
                          stifling apartment bordello in the port of Salonica.
She and the
                          other women there were rarely allowed to leave.
Clients visited
                          at all hours.

                          The anguish for Irini Penkina ended last month, in the
                          apartment's narrow bathroom. She tied black pantyhose
around
                          a pipe above the toilet. The other end was knotted
around her
                          throat.

                          There was no suicide note. But the 20-year-old woman's
death
                          has become a rallying cry for investigators and
activists seeking
                          to understand the extent of illegal prostitution in
Greece.

                          What the inquiries have uncovered has staggered the
nation:
                          claims of sexual slavery, accusations of corruption --
including
                          alleged police protection for the groups. The
revelations suggest
                          Greece has become a European Union foothold for
prostitution
                          rings with links throughout the former Soviet bloc.

                          A series of raids have led to dozens of arrests. A
policeman and
                          a retired officer were arrested Thursday after a
public
                          prosecutor staked out an alleged hideout for
prostitutes.

                          Last week, police charged 33 people with running a
network of
                          13 brothels that had hundreds of prostitutes from
former Soviet
                          republics.

                          Nearly all the alleged pimps and enforcers for the
prostitution
                          rings are Greeks -- a disturbing disclosure in a
nation inclined to
                          make foreigners the scapegoats for most social ills.

                          The situation also energized Greece's weak feminist
movement.

                          ``The collapse of communism has been good for Greece's
                          `promoters' in the prostitution racket,'' said Georgia
Doussia, a
                          member of a newly formed group opposing forced
prostitution.

                          An estimated 20,000 foreign women work as unregistered
                          prostitutes in Greece, which has a small and tightly
regulated
                          legal sex-for-sale industry. Before the fall of the
Iron Curtain,
                          Greece had no more than 2,000 illegal prostitutes,
police say.

                          The huge increase is not unique. Eastern European
women have
                          been migrating to wealthier countries for years, and
end up
                          working as prostitutes -- some willingly, but most
lured by ads
                          for work in nightclubs or as dancers, investigators
say.

                          But researchers believe Greece may be one of the
commercial
                          hubs of the sex trade.

                          ``It's a processing center for prostitutes,'' said
Gregoris Lazos, a
                          professor at Athens' Panteion University who has led a
                          decade-long study of prostitution trends.

                          ``Girls are brought here. They have no money and their
                          passports are taken away. They become the property of
the
                          rings. Within a few years they are full-time
prostitutes. They say
                          they are `processed.' And then they are sold to other
rings in
                          Europe or the Middle East.''

                          Greece's proximity to the poorest Eastern European
nations
                          contributes to its role in the regional networks,
Lazos suggested.

                          ``But the main factor is the corruption. You can't
operate illegal
                          enterprises this big and this complex without corrupt
officials,''
                          he said.

                          Prosecutors refuse to speculate on the size of the
illegal
                          prostitution operations in Greece. But the
anti-corruption drive
                          has already reached high officials.

                          The public order minister was dismissed last month in
a
                          government shuffle. Less than a week later, the former
head of
                          the national police and 15 others were charged with
corruption,
                          including allegations of taking kickbacks to issue
residency
                          permits to foreign women. There was speculation that
                          prosecutors could eventually link the permits and the
prostitution
                          rings.

                          Some police officers also are under investigation for
allegedly
                          offering protection to pimps.

                          The new police chief, Gen. Yiannis Georgakopoulos,
ordered a
                          complete overhaul of the vice squad in the Athens area
and
                          vowed to champion a ``relentless'' campaign to ferret
out rotten
                          cops.

                          The reformist attitudes have even spilled over to the
media.
                          Prosecutors have ordered newspapers not to publish
thinly
                          veiled sex ads such as those for escort and massage
services.

                          Some newspapers have raised free speech objections.
But
                          many media commentators praised the emphasis on ethics
and
                          wondered whether it could launch a more thorough
                          housecleaning -- such as the way low-level kickback
probes in
                          Italy led to a wide-ranging crusade that implicated
top politicians
                          and business figures.

                          AP-NY-11-19-98 1656EST


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