NEWS: Toronto Raids info from GAATW/Canada

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Subject: NEWS: Toronto Raids info from GAATW/Canada
From: Jyothi Kanics (
Date: Tue Jan 05 1999 - 15:41:54 EST

>Subject: Toronto Raids
>Dear Friends,
>You may be familiar with the recent high-profile Toronto arrests of 53
trafficked Thai women on December 2, 1998 or the case involving 23 Thai and
Malaysian trafficked women on September 10, 1997.
>Through our intervention efforts in September 1997, we recognized the need
to mobilze and train a team of lawyers, interpreters, state officials and
service groups to intervene where investigations, raids, arrests, and/or
deportations of trafficked, migrant and immigrant sex workers and other
undocumented workers occurs in Canada. Therefore we launched 'Sisters in
Solidarity,' a project aimed at mobilizing a Crisis Intervention Team. The
project has been underway for a few months.
>Two Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women Canada (GAATW Canada) Crisis
Intervention Team members are in Toronto from December 7 to 14 to mobilze
support for the women arrested on December 2. The majority of their
efforts are focussed on ensuring the women know of their rights, have legal
representation and access to qualified interpreters.
>Back in Brirish Columbia we are trying to raise emergency funds. Unlike
the arrests in 1997, the women this year are required to post $1500 bail
each. We find this appalling - as the women have been held in
debt-bondage. Reports from Toronto tell us that the women have been
approached by 'brokers' and 'loan sharks' who have offered to post bail in
exchange for them entering a new 'contract.'
>We are immediately trying to raise money for their bail, but we will also
need to generate ongoing support for the women.
>The following is information which we have gleaned from various
newspapers. It will be revised when the Crisis Intervention Team returns
from Toronto. We'll keep you posted.
> On December 2, 1998, 68 people were arrested on prostitution related
charges, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
> A total of 192 prostitution-related charges were laid, including keeping
a common bawdy house, procuring for the purpose of prostitution, forcible
confinement and forging documents.
> Officers conducted simultaneous raids on massage parlours, bawdy houses,
and hotels in the Toronto area. The raids specifically targeted a
prostitution ring, operated by an organised crime syndicate.
> The arrests concluded a year-long investigation dubbed "Project Trade"
by police from Toronto, York, Peel, OPP and RCMP, as well as Citizenship
and Immigration, and intelligence officers. The goal of the investigation
was to target the agents behind the operation.
> Of those arrested, 53 are women. The majority of the women are from
Thailand, but it is also suspected that some of those arrested are from
Malaysia, Korea, and Vietnam.
> Of those arrested, 25 women and 1 man also face charges under the
Immigration Act.
>. 19 women and 12 men made an appearance before an Ontario court judge,
Hugh Porter, on December 3, 1998, facing prostitution related charges.
> Five of the people arrested are suspected 'brokers,' a term used by
Project Trade investigators to describe the involvement of highly organised
international crime syndicates. What level of power or rank the arrested
brokers have within this syndicate is not yet determined.
> Police describe the brokers as agents, who arrange for the women's
travel to Canada, then 'sell' her for approximately $16 000 to $25 000.
The women then have to work off a $40 000 debt (estimated to be the
equivalent of 400 to 500 sex acts over a period of 2 to 6 months) before
she is 'free.'
> This year long investigation results in a total of 107 people facing 420
> There was a publication ban placed on most evidence, so details cannot
be reported.
>I have also attached some newspaper articles. You will see that the
police are quite 'proud' of this bust. They are boasting that they have
'broke the back of this particular crime syndicate.' We realize that this
is just a manifestation of what is going on everyday - but we feel this is
an important case, as legislation is in the works in both Canada and the US
- and because the police, working with other state agencies, are aware of
that this is part of the lucrative global trade in women, and yet continue
to criminalize the women.
>December 3, 1998
39 held after probe into Thai sex ring
Raids, charges end year-long investigation
By Henry Stancu
Toronto Star Staff Reporter
Toronto police arrested 39 people following prostitution-linked raids at 10
homes and businesses throughout the Toronto area last night.
Project Trade, a year-long investigation into a prostitution ring in which
women were brought from Thailand to work in bawdy houses, massage parlours
and hotels, wrapped up after last night's raids by officers including those
from Toronto police and Immigration Canada.
``Project Trade has targeted a group of people who were bringing Thai
females into the city. These females are sold to 500 customers before they
can earn any money on their own,'' said Detective Peter Yuen of the Toronto
force's special (Asian) task force.
Yuen said one woman could surpass that quota in about eight weeks. He said
the women, aged 18 to 25, were sold to their owners for $16,000 to $25,000
each, and that about 95 per cent came to Canada illegally, knowing exactly
what they were getting into.
Organizers in the ring would send agents to Thailand, where they would seek
out women willing to come to Canada to work as prostitutes and the women
would arrive in Toronto on visitors' visas.
They would then be provided with accommodation and a place to ply their
trade, police said.
The raids, which began at 8 p.m., were conducted at locations in Toronto's
west end, Scarborough, North York and Richmond Hill. They were conducted by
officers from the Toronto police service, York and Peel Region police, the
Ontario Provincial Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and
Immigration Canada.
One location included the Fairbank Hotel at Dufferin St. and Eglinton Ave. W.
`This was a very sophisticated operation, and we targeted the agents behind
it. I think we broke the back of this organization,'' Detective Sergeant
Dave Perry said.
``This is a big, big, money business,'' said one officer involved in the
Unable to co-ordinate transportation with paddy wagons, police transported
those arrested to 55 Division station, on Coxwell Ave. in Toronto's east
end, in the back of unmarked cars and police vans.
A total of 192 prostitution-related charges were laid, including keeping a
common bawdy house, procuring for the purpose of prostitution, forcible
confinement and forging documents.
Most of those arrested covered their heads with coats to avoid being
photographed through the back windows of cars. The arrests were the final
stage of Project Trade, in which similar arrests were made last winter.
One of the women arrested then was deported shortly after, only to be
arrested again last night, police said.
The suspects were to appear at College Park court today.


December 3, 1998
Raids free 'sex slaves'
Prostitution ring hit in massive sweep
By ROB LAMBERTI -- Toronto Sun

55 Div and RCMP prostitution bust. Five females and two males were arrested
at a massage place at 421 Bloor St. East
Several dozen Asian women were freed from sex slavery last night in police
raids that shut down nine brothels in Toronto and Richmond Hill.
Toronto and York Regional Police made several key arrests, including the
first suspected brokers who bring in the women, primarily from Thailand,
and sell their contracts to brothel keepers.
Police estimate the sex ring supplied 30 to 40 women every three months to
about 15 brothels in the Toronto area.
Brokers get about $16,000 for each woman, who is then contracted to have
sex with about 400 men -- worth about $40,000. After that quota is reached,
the woman is paid 40% of each trick before her six-month stay in Canada
ends. Police estimate a brothel keeper can earn up to $5 million a year
using 100 women.
Police arrested 28 women under contract and nine men. Four of the arrested
were identified as brokers.
Det.-Sgt. Dave Perry said the offences include prostitution-related
charges, forcible confinement and forged passports.
"Tonight's exercise was to target the agents ... and we were quite
successful," said Perry. "I think we broke the back of the organization."
Police are hesitant to call it sex slavery, but that's how some of the
prostitutes described it in a Toronto Sun interview.

'Organized crime'
"We're not saviours ... We're smashing an organized-crime syndicate," said
Det. Peter Yuen of 52 Division's Asian-crime unit. "For the girls, being in
jail makes coming to Canada a wasted trip."
Police began Project Trade last October, targeting an organization
described as large, sophisticated and very profitable. Detectives worked
their way through the maze, identifying the pimps and the brokers they
dealt with.
Police intend to seize assets and freeze bank accounts of the syndicate's
In simultaneous raids starting at 8:30 p.m., 172 officers including the
city's four Asian crime units, the proceeds-of-crime unit, intelligence
officers, OPP and RCMP hit nine brothels on Bay Mills Blvd., Kennedy Rd.,
Wilson Ave., an Eglinton Ave. W. apartment, an office building on Bloor St.
E. and massage parlours on East Beaver Creek and East Wilmont Ave.
An unrelated raid was also carried out at the Fairbanks Hotel strip bar on
Dufferin St. at Eglinton Ave.
Four other brothels have been shut down since January.
One of the prime suspected brokers is a man who was once in the Toronto
Police witness relocation program for an unrelated matter. His relocation
contract with police has expired.
The man and his wife had recently opened two North York brothels on Wilson
Ave., police said.
Yuen believes the raids will cut the flow of Thai prostitutes into the
Toronto area for about two years.
"Unfortunately, the problem will be moved to Montreal and Vancouver," he
said, adding detectives learned the syndicate had moved at least five girls
to Hamilton.
Investigators had specifically targeted five brokers who ran the only
syndicate supplying GTA-area brothels with Thai women, aged 17 to 25.
While up to 80% of the women know what they're getting involved in, the
rest are duped into the business.
One woman believed she was coming to Canada to perform traditional Thai
dances at cultural events. She performed one dance, but then was forced
into prostitution.
Another who thought she was coming to Canada to work in a factory was
contracted to a brothel -- at a premium because she was a virgin.

Yuen would not describe the business as a sex-slave ring, because there is
a contract involved. "I do concur they have been exploited," he said,
"The unfortunate problem is, back home, the economy" forces them to accept
the business, "or they don't eat." Yuen said the agents exploit the women's
While under contract, their documents are held by brothel keepers and their
movements are controlled.
If arrested, the women are usually abandoned by their pimps and agents and
"left in jail to rot," he said.
The process begins with the keepers giving brokers orders based on age,
complexion and a premium for virgins.
The orders are passed on to recruiters in Thailand, who find the women,
many already working in the sex trade, and provide them with bogus passports.


December 6, 1998

Teen sex slave: My life of shame

Asian girls tell how they were tricked into becoming hookers in Canada

By ROB LAMBERTI -- Toronto Sun

Accused prostitutes are taken into custody by police officers after a
recent raid on a Bloor St. E. massage parlour. Susan's pained eyes blinked
rapidly as tears welled and streamed down her cheeks. The young Laotian
woman stares at a table top, trying to control her emotions as she recalls
how she was sold into prostitution by a woman she
trusted to bring her to Canada. She was frozen by the memory of earning
$33,000 for a pimp in less than
two months by having sex with what appeared to be an endless line of men in
a Toronto-area brothel. Susan, now 21, said she became physically sick
because of the sex, but instead of calling a doctor, she was given two
days' rest. "Then, right afterwards, I had to go back to work," she said,
adding she wouldn't be fed if she didn't. "Some of the customers were
violent and I didn't want to take them and I didn't feel well, so (the
pimp) yelled at me. She cursed and she said, 'Just go and take them.'"

Locked up
 Susan said she was taught what to wear and how to have sex with men. The
woman who brought her here watched her perform for four days before "she
got the money and took off." Susan's daily routine began around 2 p.m. She
would serve 10 to 20 customers before being locked away for the night, only
for the ordeal to begin again the next day. And the next. And the next.
Susan was trapped in the brothel working seven days a week for one month
and 26 days before police raided it. "I counted the days ... I was
counting customers," she said. "In my whole life -- I've never seen that
much money circulating," added Susan, who was picked up with "Betty,"
"Jane" and "Linda" in police raids in June on two brothels -- on Dundas St.
W. and on Midland Ave. During a recent interview through translator Paul
Zhuravlev, Susan falls silent as the painful memories flood over her. Her
tears create a domino effect, causing the three other women to cry too.
They share the same pain, the same shame and the same memories of the
brutality of the sex-trade world they were forced into by their pimps.
Betty said she, too, was approached by a woman in Thailand about getting a
job in Canada. She envisioned working in a Canadian factory, but instead
lost her virginity in a brothel. Soon after arriving in the promised land,
she sat alone in a car on a downtown street while her female escort went
into a nearby store and secretly negotiated her sale for $16,000. When the
woman returned, she told the 19-year-old she had to pay back $36,000. "I
wasn't quite sure what the whole thing was about. She left me in the store
with the boss," Betty said. "I didn't even know at that time whether I
would be involved in sex or sexual services. "The whole thing was -- the
scariest part was -- when I came here I was a virgin and never had sex
before in my life." Betty said the control by the pimps is so absolute the
prostitutes don't have a choice about customers: "You can't refuse because
they force you to take them. You can't say no." Linda, a 19-year-old
student lured to Toronto to perform traditional Thai dances at the Eaton
Centre, was told after one performance she had to serve 450 men to pay off
her debt. "I was so afraid, I couldn't say anything," she said. "I was
never confronted with a situation like this. "I was frustrated I had to
do this. I fell into this situation and, if I were to escape, I didn't know
where I could escape to. So I had to stay there and be ... a slave." Linda
said she served 130 men before police struck. "I was so happy police
arrested the whole ring and I didn't have to serve anymore."

 Toronto and York Regional Police smashed the syndicate in raids last week
in a 14-month operation -- "Project Trade." Police hit nine brothels
operated by pimps and brokers who smuggle in women from southeast Asia. In
a separate probe, police also raided a strip joint which uses Asian dancers
and is alleged to have allowed prostitution on its premises. Suspected
hookers are led away by officers after police raids at a Wilson Ave.
business establishment.
 A total of 95 suspects face hundreds of prostitution and
immigration-related charges. And, for the first time in Canada, five of
those arrested are suspected brokers, or agents. In earlier raids -- last
February, May and June -- police hit the two brothels on Dundas and
Midland; three condos at a Jarvis and Bloor Sts. building and a King St. E.
apartment. Police believe there were about 15 brothels in the Toronto area
- which use only Thai women, provided by a small group of Thai prostitute
brokers who keep a tight rein on supply. Asian crime detectives had
believed most -- if not all -- of the women were hookers before coming to
Canada. Now, they're beginning to wonder. Too many of the women, detectives
are finding, are victims of organized crime groups, caught in a web of
promises of a better life overseas in well-paying jobs. It's a simple scam
which works well: A trusted person promises the women they'll arrange good
jobs for them in Canada; an older woman escorts them on the flight to
Canada; then, the women find they've been sold into prostitution and must
have sex with about 400 men to free themselves from the contract. Keepers
are often given a photo line-up of available women, with the fair-skinned
being most highly prized. Buyers choose the girls and brokers place the
orders with a $2,000 down payment per woman to recruiters in Thailand.
Police estimate between 30 and 40 women are brought into Canada every three
months. Brothel-keepers then work out a final price to buy the women from
the brokers. The women become the property of the keeper until the contract
is fulfilled. After that, the women earn about 40% per trick until they're
sent home.

"We don't want to be thought as bad people, because we're not," said Susan,
who was earning a meagre living as an immigrant laundry worker in Thailand
when she was approached to come to Canada. She had believed she could work
here as a waitres and was told she'd be able to marry.

 Fake passport
A handcuffed suspect is escorted into a police car after she was arrested
in a recent raid at an East Wilmot Rd. massage parlour. Instead of waiting
on tables and earning money to send to her parents, Susan learned those
she trusted in Thailand lied as they gave her a fake passport and an
airline ticket to hell. The attractive long-haired, fair-skinned woman
said she listened in as an older woman -- who deceived Canada Customs by
pretending to be Susan's mother -- sold her by negotiating a $16,000
prostitution contract with another woman. "From the hotel, the person who
was with me, she called the boss in Toronto and sold me," Susan said.
"After they agreed on the price, (the pimp) came to the hotel. She told me
that I would be working as a masseuse, not as a waitress. "I was scared,"
she said. "I said 'no' because I was told I was to work in a restaurant."
But the pimp told Susan: "No way, because I paid a lot of money to buy
you." "There (were) tears in my eyes," Susan said. "I started to cry
because it's unbelievable how (I) became a victim."
The control exerted by pimps can be overwhelming. Even after she was picked
up by police, Susan's only thought as she was put in jail was how she would
be able to earn the final $3,000 to close her contract.

 Although offered bail, Betty, Susan, Linda and Jane languished in jail for
about four months. They were abandoned by their pimps, except when they
were offered a new contract in return for bail and also warned not to talk
to police. For the police, keeping the women in jail was part of their
drive to defeat the growing trend towards the globalization of crime, but
for Susan, the explanation was much simpler: "We thought it was our karma,
our destiny." None had any money -- despite making thousands for
brothel-keepers - and they remained in their cells until the justice system
gave them a small break, releasing them into the custody of police last month.

 2nd chance
Now, the four would like another chance. They want to stay in Canada, to
work at the jobs they were promised.
> "I would do any job at all, except for selling my body," Susan said.
"I'll never accept that again, you know, men who don't love you, they just
use you, they just take you, and I don't want this to happen again." And,
Betty added, "especially serve men without even knowing who they are and
without even seeing their faces before and they treat us bad." The four
face the possibility of being deported to Thailand, despite their fear
they'll face repercussions; to be once again snared by the crime gangs
which brought them here. Their pimp, however, "is lucky because she lives
here and they can't do anything with her," Linda said. "She has money and
she has her pimps who help her." "We're so mad at her," Susan adds,
"because she didn't give any respect. She didn't have any feeling towards us."

The four have a warning for other Asian women who might be seduced by those
promising them a share of the wealth in North America. "First of all,"
Jane cautions, "if they promise to take you to another country overseas,
the countries are beautiful, but (you) will meet with so much filth there.
Yes, the people. "Maybe some of us are smart, but we can be smart back
home," adds the 21-year-old. "If we come here (like this), our wisdom
doesn't count for much because those people are so evil."

>Hope you are all well!
>Peace and love from everyone at GAATW Canada

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