NEWS Dec98 Toronto Canada Trafficking Raids

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Subject: NEWS Dec98 Toronto Canada Trafficking Raids
From: GAATW Canada (
Date: Sat Jan 09 1999 - 16:25:33 EST

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.

* 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
>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.
>`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
>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

>December 6, 1998
>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
> 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
>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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