A RUTHLESS gang of Malaysian and Vietnamese traffickers who lured hundreds of women to Britain to work as sex slaves in a ?2 million-a-year vice racket were jailed yesterday.
The victims were trapped into slavery for up to two years before the international network was smashed. Their passports and return tickets had been confiscated at Heathrow by members of the gang.
The man behind the operation, Thanh Hue Thi, 44, a cook from Golders Green, northwest London, recruited women aged 18 to 24 and smuggled them in, posing as tourists, to work in brothels in Bayswater, West London, and Edgbaston, Birmingham. He admitted trafficking women for prostitution and was jailed for five years.
Southwark Crown Court in southeast London was told that at least one woman was tricked into leaving her family after being offered a sightseeing trip with all expenses paid. In Britain she joined other women servicing up to 50 men a week in luxuriously furnished brothels.
Brendan Kelly, for the prosecution, said that with clients being charged a minimum ?70 for 30 minutes, the operation was a huge money spinner. Officers who studied ?worksheets? from the two premises calculated that the gang had grossed more than ?2 million in 17 months.
Judge Geoffrey Rivlin, QC, told Thanh that while there was evidence of coercion in only a few cases, all the women that worked for the gang were clearly under ?very strict instructions? and rigidly schooled in the way they should behave towards clients. ?All of this resulted in their serious exploitation.? Thanh had undoubtedly engineered ?ruthless control over what was going on?.
The judge said that urgent inquiries should be made into the brothel boss?s status in this country, and that, if he were here illegally, he should be deported upon release. Also in the dock was Kenny Low, 50, a chef, of Mayfair, Central London. He, too, admitted trafficking conspiracy and controlling prostitution and was jailed for 3? years.
Leng Loh, 25, from Hay Park, Birmingham, Choon Fong Loh, 64, of Mayfair, and Kwok Leong Hoh, 25, of Berkhampsted, Hertfordshire, were all jailed for 15 months for controlling prostitution. Godfrey Wong, 21, of Rowley Regis, West Midlands, was jailed for 12 months.
The Metropolitan Police clubs and vice unit smashed the network in Operation Pentameter after one woman tipped them off. The unit kept surveillance for five months and rescued 21 women.
Detective Chief Superintendent Ian Dyson said after the case: ?The women that we were able to rescue were only the tip of the iceberg. This criminal gang trafficked hundreds of Malaysian women into the UK, many of whom will have believed they were going to work in legitimate professions.?
The gang would often move the women between the two brothels. None was allowed to set foot outside except with one of the gang. They worked 12-hour days, from 6pm.
In Bayswater there could be up to 20 girls living on the premises at any one time. Some would sleep on the floor and all were expected to sleep in the bed in which they worked.