News/Australia: Brothel boom: the Asia connection

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Subject: News/Australia: Brothel boom: the Asia connection
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Thu Sep 02 1999 - 11:09:24 EDT


Brothel boom: the Asia connection
Promises of prosperity entice them away from home. But when they arrive in
Sydney they are trapped into a life of prostitution. KATE McCLYMONT and
ANDREW CLENNELL report.
Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday, August 31, 1999

WHERE once the Catherine O'Malleys and Gordon Greys reigned supreme over
Sydney's sex industry, Asian operators such as Sunny Liu and Julie Ling
Zhang are the new multiple brothel owners.

The proliferation of Asian brothels has resulted in a huge supply of
imported illegal labour, which has resulted in undercutting of prices and
unsafe sex practices.

One senior law enforcement officer said intelligence showed that through
brokers operating in Sydney, brothel operators could order as many girls as
they wanted from Asian countries and "can even specify shape and size".

The manager of Liaisons, in Edgecliff, is just one operator who claims to
have been offered Asian girls by an "agent".

"We have had this offer of however many we want. They just approach you and
say, 'Do you want Asian ladies? - We can bring in as many as you want'."

Illegally working sex workers are routinely discovered by the Department of
Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA), who make spot checks on the
hundreds of brothels operating both lawfully and unlawfully in the Sydney
area.

The Immigration Review Tribunal shows dozens of cases where illegal
immigrants are caught working in brothels throughout the city. The penalty
is deportation, but there is no investigation into who is organising the
women to get here.

A spokesperson for the Immigration Department told the Herald: "It is the
Australian Federal Police that is the Commonwealth agency with carriage for
organised crime in Australia.

"If an organisational structure becomes apparent it is therefore the AFP
that investigates and not DIMA."

But the Federal Police have not conducted an operation investigating
illegal migration rackets for prostitution for four years - since
prostitution was made legal.

Police, brothel operators and others with experience in the industry talk
of Asian women - usually young Thais - being brought over with the promise
of riches but only after they do 400 or 500 jobs for nothing. Often the
woman is quite happy to do this, say police, because the money she takes
home will be enough to help her family.

One such case pursued by the Department of Immigration, heard by the
Commonwealth Immigration Review Tribunal in 1996, was that of Soi
Phayakkha, who had entered into an arrangement at 509 Crown Street, Surry
Hills.

Her "contract," arranged in Thailand, required "she attend to 500 clients
without remuneration" said the presiding member of the tribunal, Mr John
Bordon, of her evidence.

"After that she would receive 50 per cent of the fees, which were to be
$100 per client."

Brothels supplied with workers by Sunny Liu also feature in a series of
Immigration Review Tribunal cases detailing busts in Surry Hills,
Fairfield, Bankstown and Croydon.

Now the owner and operator of an authorised brothel at 359 Riley Street,
Surry Hills, Sunny Liu was the subject of a 1992 Federal Police
investigation into the supply of illegal immigrants for prostitution purposes.

Federal Police arrested him, his sister and his brother at a townhouse in
Belfield, in Sydney's outer west. They were charged with conspiring against
the Commonwealth Migration Act. According to facts tendered to Central
Local Court at the time, Liu was seen by police surveillance collecting
seven women from 426 and 429 Pitt Street in the city and taking them by van
to Campsie, where several illegal immigrant women, condoms and lubricants
were found.

The charges against Liu were later dropped, Jessica Liu was no-billed and
Bok, Sunny's brother, was sentenced to three months' jail for being an
illegal immigrant.

Since then Sunny Liu has built up a much bigger business, running a brothel
at 5 Alan Street, Fairfield, as well as his Riley Street brothel, which he
moved to after being fined $10,000 for contempt of court for continuing to
operate an unauthorised one at 73 Albion Street, Surry Hills. He is also
alleged to be supplying prostitutes to other brothels.

Former AFP officer Chris Payne wrote in an AFP Association journal in 1997
that Operation Papertiger, which came during the Liu case, had found
sophisticated rackets involving false passports, but it ceased in mid-1995
when the AFP was restructured. "Since then, the brothels and other groups
that came to notice have continued to operate," he wrote. "After Operation
Papertiger wound up an Immigration raid uncovered a 13-year-old Thai girl
working in a large Sydney brothel."

Other examples of Asian prostitutes working illegally include a woman found
at a brothel in Croydon, in premises owned by Tamara Doong, and run by a
Tammy Dixon.

The woman, who claimed she was only visiting the brothel, was asked why she
was clad in a bra and pants. She replied it was a bikini and she planned to
go to Bondi for a swim. And in one raid at 15 Bellevue Street, Surry Hills,
evidence was given that one illegal worker was found hiding under the
floorboards with several women, according to evidence before the
Immigration Tribunal recently. And Mr Feng Wang, whose partner Julie Ling
Zhang runs four massage parlours in Sydney, was involved in a case in 1996.

When Immigration found an illegal worker in their brothel, Mr Wang said he
offered to lodge security.

Detective Sergeant Shane Clements, of the Victorian Gaming and Vice Squad
said most of the estimated 90 illegal brothels in Victoria were
"predominantly Asian businesses".

"These girls, if they have to, do from 400 sex acts before making their own
money. They're quite often willing to do that," he said. "They can make
$3,000-4,000."

"We had a couple give us interviews at the detention centre and they said
they came out quite willingly ... you're effectively looking at immigration
offences."

But it is not as though illegal immigrants working in prostitution rackets
is new. Twenty-five years ago Federal Police were working on a case
involving illegal workers from Asia being brought in to work at A Touch of
Class in Surry Hills. Ian Alcorn, a former AFP officer who worked on the
case, recalled his shock when their surveillance showed a serving NSW
police officer was involved in the racket, even driving to the airport in
an unmarked police car to check on the girls' arrival. Mr Alcorn said the
matter was passed on to NSW police, where it went no further.

Federal Police office Rob Gilder hopes the passage through Parliament of
tighter sex slavery laws by the Federal Government earlier this month will
encourage further resources to be thrown into the areas of illegal
immigration and sex slavery.

"It will now give the AFP the authority to investigate and prosecute the
principals of these types of operations," he said.

"It's huge because there's a great market for it. These organisations,
criminal syndicates, can see the value in it. These women are basically
working for nothing and they're reaping the benefits."

The Criminal Code Amendment (Slavery and Sex Servitude) Act, passed through
Federal Parliament two weeks ago and to be proclaimed by the end of the
year, contains new offences such as slavery and sex servitude.

Slavery, which carries a maximum penalty of 25 years' jail, is defined as
that "where the status or condition of the person is such that another
exercises at least some powers of ownership, including powers arising from
debt or contract".

Melanie Orhant
morhant@igc.org
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