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February 23, 2006

U.S. Department of Justice figures on human trafficking

From the U.S. Department of Justice:

In 2001, the federal government made human trafficking a top civil rights priority. Since then the U.S. Department of Justice, often working with local law enforcement agencies, has stepped up the investigation and prosecution of human traffickers.

- According to Justice Department figures, from 2001 through 2005 the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorneys' Offices prosecuted 287 traffickers, almost a 260 percent increase over the 80 prosecutions started during the prior five years. Of the 287 traffickers, 228 were charged with allegations of sex trafficking.

- During the period of 2001 through 2005, the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorneys' Offices opened 480 new investigations into human trafficking, about 325 percent more than the 113 opened in the previous five years.

- To date, federal prosecutors and other law enforcement personnel have helped 732 victims remain in the United States to assist with law enforcement efforts.

- Overall, 926 trafficking victims from 55 countries have so far been helped by the Civil Rights Division and other law enforcement personnel to be eligible for refugee-type benefits under the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

Sources: Justice Department, Civil Rights Division

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More on Scotland's growing sex trade...

Glasgow Daily Record: Scotland's 6,000 Sex Slaves.
[...] The eastern European gangs who control the sex slaves find most of their victims in the Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. Young women are lured to Britain by promises of jobs as waitresses or cleaners.

They are free to enter the UK because their homelands are members of the European Union.

But after they arrive, the gangmasters take their passports and force them to become prostitutes.

Skelly said: "Trafficked girls do not work on the street because there is a lack of control there for the gangs.

"Instead, the girls are kept as virtual prisoners inside a house or a sauna, where they are much easier to keep an eye on. They work very long hours and are hardly allowed out at all."

Many of the girls are virgins when they arrive and the crooks gangrape them to "break them in".

Rape is also used as a punishment for girls who disobey.

Skelly said: "If just one per cent of these girls are being abused, 60 women every day are being serially raped in Scotland."

Crooks from Lithuania, Russia and Albania bring the sex slaves into Scotland. They work closely with local gangsters who run the saunas and massage parlours.

The cash raised from the trade goes to fund other types of crime.

Passports seized from the slaves are used to smuggle more girls into Scotland from non-EU countries such as Moldova and Ukraine. And the overwhelming majority of vice girls in Scotland now come from overseas.

Skelly said: "We have seen a rapid change in off-street prostitution in the last two or three years. It used to be the domain of local girls but now it is almost totally foreign girls.

"In London, 85 per cent of off-street prostitutes are non-UK nationals. I do not see any reason why that figure should be any different here.

"I would say around 10 women every week are trafficked into Scotland."

Skelly said the sex slaves are forced to see between 40 and 60 punters every day, with each man paying around £50 a time.

But the women are not paid a penny for the hell they endure.

The gangsters tell them that the cash they earn pays for their accomodation, heating and food.

The crooks use threats and brutality to keep their slaves in line.

Skelly said: "They will say, 'We know where you live back home and if you do not comply we will kill you or your family.

"We have had instances in England where girls have actually been killed after returning home.

"Some of the girls eventually come to accept what they are doing and continue to work for the gangs.

"Others escape or are just discarded after a time. They go back to their native countries or stay in prostitution."

Many women who escape the trade are left with gynaecological problems. Others are infected with HIV, herpes, gonorrhoea or hepatitis. [...]
No woman should ever have to "accept" what they are doing.

[HT], [SS]

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Scotland's sex trade goes deeper underground

Shock Scale of Sick Trade.
THE shocking scale of Scotland's sex for sale industry was revealed yesterday, with a staggering SIX THOUSAND foreign women working as sex slaves, according to police.

The news confirms the findings of an award-winning Daily Record investigation exactly two years ago.

Back then, few could grasp the extent of the problem on our own doorsteps. The chattering classes thought we were exaggerating. We knew we weren't.

We spoke to girls who had escaped the clutches of the gangmasters and revealed how the new, even more brutal, vice industry was moving further underground.

These girls weren't working the streets or the saunas, they were kept locked in safe houses and beaten and sexually abused by their masters.

They were forced to take up to 60 clients in a shift. The few who found their way into saunas owned by Scottish gangsters considered themselves lucky.

We were told by the girls how they were duped into applying for college places or jobs, then stripped of their passports and passed from gang to gang and city to city.

Many had no idea where they were staying.

Chief among the slave traders are Lithuanian, Russian and the Albanian crime gangs so vicious that even hardened Scottish criminals give them a wide berth.

The Chinese Triads are also active. They keep their business within their own community but are equally brutal.

You may have thought Britain abolished slavery in 1833 but these people have reintroduced it to our shores in the 21st Century.

Now police are set to tackle the slave traders with one of the widest and most ambitious crackdowns ever seen.

All 55 forces from Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland will be involved in Operation Pentameter.

They will use everything from foreign language poster campaigns at airports, warning girls of the dangers they face, to raids on brothels.

And no longer will the victims be faced with the prospect of being sent home to face shame and psychological scars with only a one-way ticket in their pocket.

They will be offered support and care from organisations experienced in helping women who have endured physical and psychological violence.

Those caring and commonsense moves are precisely what the Record has been urging.

Yesterday, the officers spearheading Operation Pentameter emphasised what the Record has stressed time and time again:

The vice trade is not a simple transaction involving a man paying a woman for sex - it is organised crime, based on fear and exploitation.

Every time a man pays a working girl for sex he is contributing to organised crime, to drugs and violence on our streets and to the untold misery of thousands of women.
Thank God for these organisations reaching out to the victims in need. Bravo to the Record's efforts on this matter.

[HT], [SS]

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February 19, 2006

Spotsylvania suspends sexy stakeouts

Sex Services in Prostitution Probes Banned
The sheriff said Friday he will no longer allow detectives to receive sexual services while investigating suspected prostitution after they spent $1,200 at massage parlors last month and sparked a public outcry.

Spotsylvania County Sheriff Howard Smith defended the practice as necessary to obtain a conviction but told his department he was suspending it.

"As sheriff, I understand the feelings and concerns the citizens of this county have expressed," Smith said in a statement sent to The Associated Press on Friday. "And I empathize with those feelings. Because of the public's express response, I have suspended this practice."

Court documents show that four times last month, county detectives allowed women at Moon Spa to perform sex acts on them — once leaving a $350 tip. A total of $1,200 was spent during the visits, Smith said. He said multiple visits were necessary so detectives could build trust with the operators.

Detectives shut down Moon Spa last month. The two suspected operators and three women accused of working there face several charges, including prostitution and sodomy, Smith said.

Smith maintained the sexual contact was necessary to obtain a conviction. But law enforcement officials say undercover officers only need to get an offer of sex for money to move the case forward.

The practice has been used in Spotsylvania since at least 2003.

Earlier this week, Smith told The Washington Post that sexual contact is needed during the investigations because most professionals know not to say anything incriminating. And conversation is difficult, he said, because masseuses at the Asian-run parlors in the northern Virginia county speak little English. [Apparently officers practice little morals. -- Kyer]

But several members of Spotsylvania's Board of Supervisors have spoken out against the methods used in the investigation.

"All of us ... have been worried about this episode tarnishing the county and making us a laughingstock of the nation," board chairman Henry "Hap" Connors told the AP Friday. "That's why I came out early on and asked the sheriff to cease using these tactics."

Spotsylvania Commonwealth's Attorney William Neely said he respects Smith's decision to end the practice, but refused to apologize for the officers' tactics.

Seems like one of those "We're only stopping because we got caught" sort of things, wouldn't you agree?

See also: "Undercover police go under the covers to bust prostitution ring" for earlier story.


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February 15, 2006

AB, Canada: Police acquire power to impound johns' cars

Prostitution fight boosted: Cops to enforce law for seizing johns' cars.
February 13, 2006

Giving police the powers to impound cruising johns' cars will ultimately clean up "dirty vermin" who buy and sell flesh on city streets, says a longtime anti-prostitution crusader.

Forest Lawn resident Art Sheeler said he has high hopes the plan will rid communities such as his of "scum" infecting it with their "filth."

Those hopes come on the heels of Alberta Transportation Minister Lyle Oberg's announcement the province plans to enforce a law allowing cops to seize cars from men trying to buy the services of sex-trade workers.

It will likely come into effect this spring or in early summer.

Johns who lose vehicles under the law will have a chance to get them back by going to so-called "john school" to learn about the damage caused by prostitution.

If they don't take the course, the vehicle will go up for sale.

They'll also get their vehicles impounded for weeks or months, and be made to pay for the storage, a penalty Sheeler applauds.

"I relish the day the first BMW is loaded up on the back of one of those trucks," he said yesterday.

"We have got to start clamping down on these dirty vermin and useless slime -- it does not belong in a community."

Ald. Craig Burrows, who sits on the police commission, said the law will not be a cure-all.

"It's not going to end prostitution, but hopefully it will make people stop and think twice about exploiting women, especially younger people," he said.

"If you are going to be a john, you will be held accountable."

Ald. Andre Chabot agrees.

"If you eliminate the demand for that particular type of service we're hoping the supply will dry up," he said.

Sheeler said "it's phenomenal the difference it will make. When you take the john's car away, you take the john away."

Saskatchewan and Manitoba already have similar laws.
Very creative, indeed.


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Undercover police go under the covers to bust prostitution ring

Detectives got sex services as part of prostitution probe.
From NBC12 News Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office is under fire this morning for the way they investigate certain prostitution cases. Undercover detectives have reportedly been having sex when they bust massage parlors for prostitution. Sheriff Howard Smith says the detectives are just doing what needs to be done in order to build a case and get a conviction. He says they are not doing anything illegal or new. But County Supervisor Henry Connors Jr. says he wants the practice to stop.

"The bottom line is, while we want to shut down places of ill repute, I don't think we want to promote ill moral behavior among our law enforcement officials," Connors said.

NBC12 legal analyst Steven Benjamin says: "I can't believe the Sheriff is still defending this policy, I promise you, he won't be defending it much longer."

The sheriff says the department has been successful in shutting down several massage parlors using this method. He says only unmarried detectives are involved.

Court documents show that four times last month, county detectives allowed women at Moon Spa to perform sex acts on them -- once leaving a 350 dollar tip. Smith acknowledged the practice is not new.

Several police officials and legal observers say the practice has been tried by other agencies across the country, but they knew of none that still permit sexual contact with suspects as part of prostitution investigations.
I do not care what the "bottom line" is --- engaging prostitutes for sex as an undercover operation is a far stretch for something a little more plausible like purchasing drugs from a dealer in order to infiltrate a drug ring.

I hope Benjamin is correct in saying this policy will no longer be defended.


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February 11, 2006

USAID funding pro-prostitution group in India?

Congressman Accuses USAID of Establishing Pro-Prostitution Group in India and Lying About It.
February 10, 2006
Volume 9, Number 8

The Chairman of a US House subcommittee on criminal justice has charged the US Agency for International Development (USAID) with setting up a pro-prostitution group in India and lying about it to Congressional staff.

In his February 6th letter to Randall Tobias, US Global Aids Coordinator, Representative Mark Souder, goes on to charge USAID personnel with deliberately setting up a non-governmental organization (NGO) precisely to hide deliberate violations of a federal law which forbids US financial support of pro-prostitution activity.

It came to light some months ago that a group in Indian called Sampada Grameen Mahila Sansthat (SAMGRAM) was working to stop other groups from helping underage girls out of prostitution. It was further charged that SAMGRAM was receiving US financial assistance, a violation of the US Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003, which forbids US funds from being used "to promote or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution of sex trafficking." USAID has denied the charge and a USAID staff member told Congressional staff that such inquiries by the subcommittee were "destructive."

In his letter, Souder says he has come into possession of documents that "prove that USAID money financed the pro-prostitution SANRAM though a second organization called Avert, which was established with the assistance of four USAID employees as a pass through entity." He further charged in his letter that "USAID held the ex-officio Vice-Chairmanship of Avert since its inception."

The Bush Administration has been in the leadership of global efforts to eliminate human sex trafficking. The charges demonstrate how there can be a disconnect between the wishes of an executive administration and the entrenched bureaucracy.

USAID has refused to publicly comment on the charges leveled by Representative Souder. USAID did not respond to the Friday Fax's request for comment.

February 10, 2006

Newfoundland child porn, prostitution ring under investigation

N.L. police investigate alleged child porn and prostitution operation.
Canadian Press
Wednesday, February 08, 2006

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. (CP) - An investigation into a porn and prostitution ring that allegedly involved 40 young girls in Newfoundland has prompted the police chief in St. John's to suggest that the province has lost its innocence.

Richard Deering, chief of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, confirmed Wednesday that a team of 10 officers is completing interviews with the young victims, several search warrants have been executed and arrests are expected within days.

"It involves allegations that young people in our community were being put in a situation that involved sexual exploitation or other crimes of a sexual nature," Deering said in an interview. "I don't think it will be a lot of time between now and when arrests are made."

He said police are seeking expert advice on what charges can be laid, and how to gain access to seized computers.

"We read about it in other places and think how dreadful it is, but when it hits our community to the magnitude we think we've come across here, it's really appalling to us," Deering said.

"Clearly we've lost our innocence in relation to incidents of this type."

Deering also said if the investigation determines pornographic images have been distributed on the Internet, the probe will extend beyond the province.

The chief said key suspects have been identified and there is no risk to other young people.

However, he said the police investigation has yet to be completed.

"We want to make sure we do the investigation properly and we don't leave a stone unturned."
© The Canadian Press 2006
[HT], [SS]

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Kabul's "Chinese restaurants"

Chinese prostitutes arrested in Kabul 'restaurant' raids.
By Justin Huggler, Asia Correspondent
The Independent

Afghan police rounded up scores of suspects in a series of raids across Kabul yesterday. But this time the prisoners were not Taliban insurgents or Al-Qa'ida suspects. They were Chinese women - the notorious Chinese prostitutes of Kabul.

In the four years since the fall of the Taliban, an extraordinary number of "Chinese restaurants" have opened in Kabul. Although they have bright neon signs and menus, and they do sell food, most are simply fronts for prostitution.

In fact, so synonymous have Chinese restaurants become with brothels in Kabul that it is not a good idea to tell anybody you are going for a Chinese meal - in case they get the wrong impression.

Nobody is really sure how the Chinese came to dominate the market. But in Kabul, traditional Chinese lanterns outside a restaurant can mean more is on offer than just good food.

By day you can spot the prostitutes hanging around the restaurants, often wearing skimpy clothes that would be unimaginable for any Afghan woman.

For years the police have turned a blind eye to the brothels, but now they are cracking down. The Interior Ministry said 46 foreign women had been arrested for prostitution and for selling alcohol to Afghans. Privately, the ministry said they were all Chinese.

The crackdown comes after newly elected members of parliament said they would go after the government over Kabul's widespread prostitution.

The brothels are seen as a corrupting effect of the West. Most are located in the expensive neighbourhoods like Wazir Akbar Khan and Shar-e Now, amid the expensive restaurants and bars frequented by the plethora of foreign diplomats, UN staff and NGO workers who live in Kabul.

These are liberal areas and no brothel would last long in the traditional Afghan neighbourhoods that make up most of the city: they would be chased out by local sentiment.

Undeniably the brothels attract foreign clientele. They also attract a steady stream of Afghan men.

Adding to the controversy are Afghanistan's laws on the consumption of alcohol, still illegal for all Afghan Muslims. But it is allowed to sell alcohol to foreigners, who can freely drink it. The illegal status of the Chinese restaurants has meant, however, that many have also sold alcohol to Afghan men, which has added to their notoriety.

There is a growing backlash to the Western presence in Kabul from Afghans embittered at a lack of economic progress since the fall of the Taliban. Intolerance of Westerners' drinking and foreign women not covering their heads in public is growing.

The Interior Ministry said the women arrested yesterday would be deported. Under the Taliban they would have faced a public lashing or being stoned to death.
[HT], [SS]

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February 9, 2006

The "real problem" of trafficking in Wales

Just in case you thought human trafficking was isolated to mainland Europe...

Via B.T.A.H.T.: Human trafficking "A real problem" in Wales.
The trafficking of people into forced prostitution is a real problem in Wales, according to police and health workers. Since the conviction of Gjergj Mungiovi-Cuka and Akil Likcani for sex trafficking in the Cardiff area last year, police have been investigating other such criminal acts. Giles York, assistant chief constable of South Wales Police, said: "I have covert operations running, testing the stereotypical places to see if there is prostitution happening there, to see if there are people being exploited there."

Consultant clinical psychologist Richard Pates, who runs an outreach programme for prostitutes in Cardiff said "It's very hard to quantify the numbers, because it is obviously a hidden trade, it's a hidden profession.

"But if I asked our outreach worker to take you out today, she would have no trouble in introducing you to 20 women that would probably have been trafficked, so it is not difficult to find women if you know where you are looking.

"It is a real problem in this city and in Wales."
For more please click here.
[HT], [SS]

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February 8, 2006

Vancouver's "body rub parlours"

Vancouver's dance with prostitution.
Should prostitution be legal? Some say it already is.

Body-rub parlours are regulated under Vancouver's business license bylaw. The description of a body-rub, sandwiched between 'Billiard-room keeper' and 'Bowling alley', is clear: It "includes the manipulating, touching or stimulating by any means, of a person's body or part thereof," according to the bylaw.

By comparison, a license for massage parlours explicitly forbids female employees from attending to male customers. There are no such restrictions in place for body-rub parlours.

More obvious, perhaps, is the fact that the bylaw regarding 'health enhancement centres' specifically outlaws employees from engaging in "an act of prostitution." No such stipulation is in place for body-rub parlours.

The costs of business licenses are telling as well. Massage parlour licenses are $202 a year; a license for a body-rub parlour costs $7,730 yearly - the third most expensive business license the city charges for, behind horse racing and the PNE.

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February 7, 2006

Young Indo-Pak girls sold into Mid-East sex slavery

Indo-Pak girls forced into prostitution.
Asian News International
Lahore, February 6, 2006
Hindustan Times

In a startling case of organised women trafficking that has come to light, Pakistani and Indian girls aged between 11 and 13 are being smuggled to the Middle East countries for being forced into prostitution there. The girls, who are shown as aged between 20 and 22 on their passports, are brought to these countries on the pretext of getting them attracting jobs.

Over the years the trade has been flourishing, as there is great demand of virgin girls in these countries since the rich Sheikhs love having sex with young girls. The traffickers use blood capsules on the girls' bodies in order to "prove" their virginity.

[...] According to The News, the girls revealed that most of their companions belonged to Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Russia.

"Most of the victims are between the age of 11 to 13 years and are smuggled to the Arab countries where they are forced into prostitution in Middle East and Arab countries," the paper quotedone of the victims as saying. She added that on the passports, ages of these girls were shown as 20 to 22 years old.

She said the human traffickers promised a beautiful and bright future and respectable jobs in the Middle East and Arab countries to lure young girls and after reaching abroad these girls are forced into prostitution.

"The traffickers forced the young girls to show themselves as virgins because most of their clients demanded young girls," another victim said adding, "after arrival and clearance from the airport the traffickers took her passport and forced her physically to do what she was told."

The "agents" use tools like informing the police and of telling their families against their sex slaves, said the paper. One of the rescued victims said that threats of violence kept the victims in line and in some cases these threats became reality. Many girls were forced to have abortions and were forced back to work within weeks, she said and maintained that beatings and forced abortions were common in the life of the sex slaves.

"Some of the rich people in these countries like sex with young girls," she revealed. [...]

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February 6, 2006

DOD criminalizes the patronization of prostitutes by members of armed forces

Patronizing a prostitute is now a specific crime for servicemembers
By Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Saturday, January 7, 2006

ARLINGTON, Va. -- For the first time, the Department of Defense has specifically made it a crime for a servicemember to patronize a prostitute. The punishment: up to a year in prison, forfeiture of pay and dishonorable discharge.

The formal order came in a presidential executive order signed without fanfare Oct. 14, directing changes in the Manual for Courts-Martial. It is part of an assault the military has been waging against human trafficking.

A Defense Department spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, said in an e-mailed response to questions that "prostitution" and "pandering" will now be among the offenses covered by Article 134 of the courts-martial manual.

Paying for sex used to fall under the "Solicitation of Another to Commit an Offense" listed as part of Article 134, which executes the corresponding section in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Krenke said.

It prohibits "all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces" and "all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces."

But the October executive order makes prostitution and pandering specific offenses, she said.

Krenke said that the DOD made the change as part of its effort to combat human trafficking by taking on the sex exploitation industry, as set forth in a December 2002 National Security Presidential Directive that says in part:

"Our policy is based on an abolitionist approach to trafficking in persons, and our efforts must involve a comprehensive attack on such trafficking, which is a modern day of slavery. In this regard, the U.S. Government opposes prostitution and any related activities, including pimping, pandering, or maintaining brothels as contributing to the phenomenon of trafficking in persons."
Bravo. This is very good news. The key, as the article states, is to get this information out to those in the field that the rules have changed and this will no longer be tolerated under military regulations. It is one thing to ammend the rules Stateside, but unless those in the field are aware of the changes---it is unlikely to be effective.

It believe it goes without saying---such behavior is not becoming of a member of the United States armed forces.

[HT], [SS]

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Vatican: Turkish Mafia may have murdered priest who aided prostitutes

Vatican rep: Prostitution mafia may be involved in priest's murder
February 6, 2006

The Vatican's Istanbul representative, Monsignor Georges Marovic, has stated that the murder yesterday of Andrea Sentore, a Roman Catholic priest in Trabzon, could be connected to the prostitution mafia in Trabzon. Speaking about the incident, Monsignor Marovic said "Our priest in Trabzon was working to help save the women who had come to Turkey from very poor ex-Soviet countries like Moldavia, who had fallen into the trap of prostitution. He was working in this area. Which is why the prostitution mafia may have killed him."

News of the priest's murder was broadcast first in the Italian press, which refrained from saying whether the incident was connected to the Danish caricatures. Justice Minister Cemil Cicek said that Priest Sentore's murder was something which "was damned with hatred," commenting "It is impossible for us to view this is a legitimate act, no matter what goal the murderers had in mind." Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu said that the incident was being investigated from every possible aspect.
Interestingly, the (English-translated) article currently posted no longer mentions anything about Sentore's involvement with helping prostitutes, instead, it raises this seemingly irrelevant possibility:
It is thought at this point that Santore's death may be related to the growing unrest over the Danish caricatures that has swept through Europe and the Middle East.
Hmm...quite a departure from the original presumed motive.

[HT], [SS]

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February 4, 2006

B.C. man first to be charged with human trafficking in Canada

B.C. man challenges human trafficking charge.
Last Updated Fri, 03 Feb 2006 08:03:21 EST
CBC News

A man in British Columbia who has been charged with human trafficking is challenging the law on constitutional grounds.

Michael Ng is the first person to be charged with the offence created four years ago under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Ng, who ran a Vancouver massage parlour, also faces 20 other charges of prostitution and assault.

He is set to stand trial next month.

But it's the crime of trafficking people, which carries a $1-million fine and life in prison, that Ng's lawyer is fighting first.

When Parliament created the law against human trafficking, it became illegal to knowingly organize the entry into Canada of anyone by means of abduction, fraud, force, deception, threat of force or coercion.

And it's the reference to fraud and deception that Ng's lawyer, Michael Klein, says makes the law vague and unconstitutional.

Klein argued before Judge Malcolm McLean on Thursday that the law could be used to prosecute a travel agent who organized an excursion to Vancouver, after lying to vacationers about how sunny the city is in winter.

Klein says what's missing from the law is any explicit reference to people being exploited as a result of the deception.

Conservative MP Diane Ablonczy rejects the argument.

"This argument that somehow a travel agent could get caught is nonsense," she said. "It's very clear that any court in the country would look at intent as opposed to inadvertence."

The Crown alleges Ng deceived two women into coming to Canada and then forced them into prostitution at his massage parlour.

Prosecutor Peter LaPrairie told the judge that far from being imprecise, the Canadian law mirrors the UN definition of what constitutes human trafficking.

But both the UN protocol, and an identical offence created under Canada's Criminal Code last November, do include the words Ng's lawyer says are missing from the Immigration Act offence, LaPrairie said.
[HT], [SS]

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February 3, 2006

FBI continues to fight human-trafficking in N. Carolina

As a follow up to my earlier post regarding the sexual-trafficking of Latinas in North Carolina comes this story: FBI wants to end human trafficking.
Updated: 1/25/2006 10:23:27 PM
By: Shawn Flynn, News 14 Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The FBI is reaching out to the Latino community in North Carolina, trying to put a stop to human trafficking.

"We have heard of problems where individuals are brought into the country to work as a domestic and they're pretty much held hostage or held like a slave," said Angeles Ortega-Moore, the executive director of the Charlotte-based Latin American Coalition.

That's what happened to "Alex," a federally protected witness in California.

"The woman who brought me here told me I would work in a restaurant and I would pay her off with my labor," Alex said.

When it comes to human trafficking, Hispanics make up the biggest population -- an estimated 61 percent. Many work on migrant farms.

That labor, Alex said, became her body as she was sold into prostitution with two other 14-year-old girls.

"I believe we were slaves," she said. "They wouldn't let us leave. We were working 24 hours. It didn't matter if we were sleeping; they would get us up. If we were hungry, there was no time to eat. All that mattered was their money."

Similar stories are becoming more common in the Tar Heel State, which has the fifth-largest population of illegal immigrants.

"Given the size of the illegal immigrant population here in North Carolina, we believe that it's a huge problem here that's going largely unaddressed," said Kevin Kendrick, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Charlotte Division.

Kevin Kendrick, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Charlotte Division, hopes to raise awareness about human trafficking.

The State Department says 18,000 people are trafficked into the country each year. FBI analysts in Charlotte estimated that 23 percent of them are in the Southeast.

Hispanics make up the biggest population, at an estimated 61 percent, so the FBI is reaching out to them and hoping that victims will come forward.

"It could range anywhere from hundreds to thousands," Kendrick said Wednesday. "We just don't know, and that’s one of the reasons why we're doing this."

It is estimated that about 34 percent of Hispanic victims work on migrant farms, while about 29 percent work in prostitution.

Of all trafficking victims, about 80 percent are female, according to the FBI.

Web Journalist: Kyle Almond
Copyright 2006 TWEAN d.b.a. News 14 Carolina
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Fighting Pornography, Adultery in the Military

'Battle Kits' Fight Porn, Adultery in the Military.
Biblically Themed Guides Try to Keep Soldiers 'Pure' While Deployed

Jan. 6, 2006 ­ - Cloaked in camouflage and no bigger than a breadbox, a new addition to many soldiers' backpacks is a five-book kit intended to "help men and women find freedom from sexual temptation God's way."

The kits -- from New Life Ministries, which broadcasts on 150 stations nationwide -- promote Bible-based abstinence: no pornography, adultery, nonmarital sex or masturbation.

"Your goal is sexual purity," the text says. "You are sexually pure when no sexual gratification comes from anyone or anything but your wife."

Each kit comes with an "Every Man's Battle" book and workbook for men or an "Every Woman's Battle" book and workbook for women, plus a Bible study guide and a daily devotional.

Combating the 'Problem of Pornography
Divorce rates in the military have risen, especially in the Army, where the number of divorces nearly doubled from 2001 to 2004, according to the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland.

Chaplain Randy Brandt, stationed in Schweinfurt, Germany, said the kits have helped combat the "problem of pornography."

"Even while we were in Iraq, the pervasion of this problem was evident -- soldiers had porno CDs they could play on their personal DVDs, and they had sexually suggestive magazines "graciously" donated for the soldiers' entertainment," Brandt said. "The problem is an age-old one with the military: Soldiers are far away from home for a long time, sexual frustration sets in, and the visual stimuli become the easiest release."

But Brandt said the real problem starts when the soldiers return home.

"The soldiers come home, many are addicted to this type of sexual stimulation and either consciously or subconsciously they begin to compare their current relationship with the visual/Internet/virtual reality that they are used to and unfortunately, the real woman -- wife or girlfriend -- rarely can measure up," Brandt said.

20,000 Kits Ordered
New Life hopes its kits will replace pornography and keep soldiers focused on their spouses and families back home, so that the transition from battle to domestic life goes a little easier.

Spokesman Larry Sonnenburg said the Christian group has shipped 11,000 kits, mainly to Iraq and Afghanistan. But increasingly, troops at home are requesting the kits. Total orders now number nearly 20,000.

The battle kits began with a call earlier this year to New Life Ministries from Michael Music, a chaplain's assistant with a Navy unit then in Iraq.

Because of long deployments and because more soldiers are married, the chaplain has focused more than before on the sexual lives of soldiers.

Although pornography remains a pervasive problem, said the chaplains, the bigger problem is the crisis it produces in the military psyche.

Sgt. Frank Aguilar, who organizes Bible studies at Fort Heachuca, Ariz., said he hoped the kits would bring his unit together once it's deployed to Iraq.

"Whatever happens over there will happen," Aguilar said. "I just want to go with a platoon and have tools to prepare us that makes us closer, and we will have less problems. These problems may seem trivial, but it ends up affecting the whole unit."

Copyright 2006 ABC News Internet Ventures

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February 2, 2006

UNICEF advises Guatemala to crack down on child pornography

UNICEF to Guatemala: Investigate local child porn rings.
February 1, 2006 12:00am
Source: EFE News Service

The regional office of UNICEF is demanding that Guatemalan authorities launch a serious investigation of child pornography rings said to be operating virtually unhindered in this Central American nation.

The office of the United Nations Children's Fund in Guatemala, in a communique, asked the authorities to "take quick and decisive action to stop this and all the sexual exploitation crimes against children and adolescents that are taking place each day in this country."

UNICEF's concern over the matter came to a head after the local press reported on Monday the existence of an alleged ring of pedophiles who produce child porn videos in the eastern province of Jutiapa, near the border with El Salvador.

The local daily Prensa Libre reported that the pedophiles film children of both sexes ranging in age from 11 to 16 committing sex acts with each other or being abused by adults evidently while they were under the influence of drugs.

An investigation by the Guatemalan national ombudsman's office found that the videos are being distributed to pedophiles around the world via the Internet.

UNICEF says that to fight those dedicated to producing and distributing child pornography, "Guatemala must move forward with reforms of the penal code, classify as crimes the (various) forms of commercial sexual exploitation and harmonize the body of law with the international instruments ratified by the Guatemalan state."

This, the U.N. organization added, will permit "the penal sanctioning and tracking down of persons who sexually exploit minors."

"Commercial sexual exploitation is a form of violence that uses persons under 18 years of age in sexual, erotic and pornographic activities in exchange for payment," UNICEF said, adding that "extreme poverty, lack of educational and job opportunities, marginalization, displacement and intrafamily violence" make minors vulnerable to such exploitation.

On Saturday, the Spanish police broke up 62 Internet pedophile "groups" around the world that exchanged photos and videos of minors - many of them infants - who had been sexually violated.

The Spanish police said that their investigation had detected a network of 2,870 Internet connections in 40 countries, among them Guatemala, that distributed the images of minors to groups of pedophiles [...]

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Turkey's $3.6 billion sex industry

Report: $3.6 billion sex trade is thriving.
Chicago Tribune
Published February 1, 2006

ANKARA, TURKEY -- Turkey is fast becoming one of the largest markets for the trafficking of women from nearby former Soviet states who are brought in and forced into prostitution, an international agency said in a report released Tuesday.

Profits from the illicit sex trade in Turkey are estimated to be about $3.6 billion last year, according to the report from the International Organization for Migration.

About 5,000 women are believed to be working as sex slaves across Turkey, said an agency official. The prostitution networks get about $150 per customer; each woman serves as many as 15 clients a day.

Said Marielle Lindstrom, country director for the migration group: "The women don't get a penny."
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Ladies of the 1950s (Korean) Nights

[The Dawn of Modern Korea] (354) Ladies of the 1950s Nights.
The Korea Times
02-02-2006 21:16
By Andrei Lankov

In 1947 the U.S. military government in Korea made prostitution illegal, and in 1948 the parliament of the newly established Republic of Korea upheld the ban. However, there was a major problem with the law: nobody took it seriously. Perhaps, from the very beginning, it was not meant to be taken seriously. Prostitution continued, and in the 1950s reached levels undreamt of in colonial times. An estimated 50-100,000 women made their living by selling sexual services, and there were a number of part-timers as well.

In Korea of the 1960s and 1970s there were at least four distinct type of the prostitution. First, there was cheap sex to the lusty male masses. Second,there was the prostitution, which served the U.S. forces. Another group of prostitutes catered to foreign sex-tourists (largely Japanese), and yet another included high-level call girls who provided sexual pleasures for the top crust [...]
A very interesting and educational article... I encourage you to read the rest.

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February 1, 2006

Iranian religious courts often release human traffickers

Iran: Clerical courts set free women traffickers.
Wednesday, 28 December 2005

The state-run daily Iran reported that a man involved in human trafficking of young Iranian girls, each sold in Arab countries for over 50 million rials (US$4,600), received a prison term of three to five months. An appeals court, however, overturned the ruling and released the smuggler and ordered him to pay a fine of just US$275.

The Iranian regime has executed minors on much lesser charges and continues to issue stoning to death verdicts. But the regime’s judiciary deals quite leniently with networks of human traffickers of young Iranian girls and women, since the ring leaders of such networks are mostly linked to the ruling mullahs who profit from the illicit trade.

On rare occasions when one of these ring leaders is arrested, they eventually walk free after paying less than 6% of what they earn from selling a single woman. Iranian state-run newspapers have reported that hundreds of girls and women are smuggled and sold in Persian Gulf states and Pakistan every month.

Ms. Sarvnaz Chitsaz, Chair of the Women’s Committee of the National Resistance Council of Iran, called on all women’s rights and human rights organizations, and also all relevant international bodies in the United Nations, Council of Europe, European Union, Organization of Islamic Conference, and the Arab League to condemn the trafficking of young Iranian girls by Iran's fundamentalist regime. She demanded urgent regional and international action to stop the continued victimization of Iranian girls and women.

Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran
December 28, 2005
While visiting the above link, make sure to check out the rest of the site.


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Salvadoran natls. implicated in trafficking plot in U.S.

Also via the New York Jewish Times: Salvadoran Nationals in the U.S. Arrested for Sex Trafficking Scheme (12/19/05).
HOUSTON, Texas (ICE) -- Eight Salvadoran nationals were arrested by ICE agents for their alleged roles in an organization that trafficked Latin American females, including minors, into the United States and forced them into sexual servitude.

The females were enticed with promises of good jobs in America, only to be forced to work as “bargirls” for minimal payment and the requirement that they submit to the sexual demands of the defendants, bar patrons and others. During the enforcement actions, ICE agents, working with the FBI and state and local law enforcement, encountered nearly 100 females who may be victims of the sex trafficking scheme.

The federal criminal complaint alleges that the eight defendants, all of them owners or operators of bars and nightclubs in the Houston area, were part of an organization responsible for enticing and then smuggling young women from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras into the United States across the Texas-Mexico border. The women were required to work at their businesses to pay off smuggling fees ranging from $8,000 to $13,000. Instead of the good jobs they were promised, the women were made to work as “bargirls,” sitting and dancing with customers and selling overpriced drinks to the men. The bars in question employed as many as 30 women in such a capacity at any given time.

According to the complaint, one young woman earned about $500 to $600 a week selling drinks to male customers. But after paying debts that included alien smuggling fees, food, housing, clothing and other miscellaneous items, she received approximately $50 each week. In addition to the almost insurmountable debt, the complaint alleges that the defendants used threats of violence against the women and their families to control them and keep them working. The complaint alleges that the defendants compelled the woman and girls to submit to the sexual demands of the defendants, their close associates and bar patrons.

All eight defendants are charged with conspiring to recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide and obtain the women and girls, and then benefiting financially from participation in a venture that engaged in such acts, knowing that force, fraud and coercion would be used to cause these women and girls to engage in commercial sex acts. A charge of conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

During the course of the law enforcement action, approximately 100 women from Central and South America were taken into ICE custody on various immigration related charges. The investigation continues.
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Multi-Agency task-force nab 8 suspects for conspiracy to traffic persons

Via the New York Jewish Times: Eight Persons Indicted for Conspiracy to Commit Slavery and Trafficking (12/19/05).
HOUSTON, Texas (FBI) -- United States Attorney Chuck Rosenberg and Assistant Attorney General Wan Kim, Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, announced the indictment of eight persons for their roles in an organization allegedly involved in the trafficking of Central American females for compelled service at Houston area bars and restaurants through force, fraud and coercion.

The indictment returned by a grand jury in Houston, Texas, charges the following eight defendants: Maximino Mondragon , also known as “El Chimino,” 57, the owner of El Potrero de Chimino Bar and La Margarita Restaurant, both located on Hempstead Highway; Walter Alexander Corea , 39, the owner and operator of the El Cuco Restaurant located on West Tidwell Road; Victor Omar Lopez, 38, and Oscar Mondragon , 47, operators of the Mi Cabana Sports Bar, also located on West Tidwell Road; Maria Fuentes, 35, a bartender and bookkeeper at Maximino's bar and restaurant; Olga Mondragon , 45, the operator of the El Huetamo Nite Club, also known as La Leona Club on Ojeman Road; Kerin Josue Silva , 19, son of Walter Corea, who allegedly transported victims to the bars and restaurants, and Lorenza Reyes-Nunez , also known as “COMADRE,” 30, who worked at Maximino Mondragon's businesses.

The first count of the indictment accuses all eight defendants of conspiring to hold persons in conditions of peonage and recruiting, holding, transporting and providing and obtaining persons for labor and services. Specifically, it is alleged that the conspiracy involved the recruitment of women and girls from Central America to travel to the United States with the expectation of legitimate jobs in bars and restaurants. The members of the conspiracy arranged transportation to facilitate their illegal entry into the United States and travel to Houston. Upon arriving in Houston, the defendants allegedly held the women through threats of force to compel and maintain their service as “bargirls” at bars and restaurants until each repaid smuggling and other assessed fees ranging from $6,000 to $12,500. According to the indictment, the conspiracy included directing women and girls to turn themselves into immigration officers upon entering the United States, believing the women, non-Mexican illegal aliens, would be released with a Notice to Appear (NTA) for a future court date. The conspirators would then confiscate the NTA documents from the women and girls.

According to the indictment, while in service to the defendants as “bargirls,” the women and girls were expected to keep company with the male patrons of the bars and encourage the patrons to buy beer and liquor at high prices. A portion of the price of the beverage would be applied toward the female's outstanding debt. Additionally, the indictment alleges the women and girls were on occasion required to submit to sexual activity with male bar patrons and favored business associates of the conspirators. This conspiracy charge carries a maximum statutory penalty of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine upon conviction.

The second count of the indictment charges seven of the defendants with conspiracy to smuggle aliens for commercial advantage and private financial gain. Nunez is not charged in this count. A conviction for this felony offense carries a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The indictment identifies eight women from El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua ranging in age from 16 to 38, who were recruited by one or more of the conspirators and compelled to work as “bargirls” to pay their smuggling fees.

According to the allegations of the indictment, in November 2001, El Chimino and Corea recruited two Honduran women, M.V.L., age 38, and M.A.L., age 34, to illegally travel and enter the United States offering transportation and work at their bars as a means of repaying the smuggling fees. Corea arranged the illegal entry of both of these women and a third Honduran woman, R.R.G., age 22, into the United States through Mexico and arranged their transport to Houston, Texas.

Upon arriving in Houston, Maria Fuentes took two of the women shopping for clothing, instructing them to buy sexually provocative outfits. The cost of the clothing was added to the women's debt. Fuentes was also involved in accounting for the number of drinks the women and girls working as “bargirls” sold to customers, tracking payments toward the smuggling and other debts, and Fuentes is also specifically alleged to have kept such an accounting for a fourth identified woman, B.E.B., then age 27.

Two months later, in February 2002, Lorenza Reyes-Nunez allegedly told El Chimino that M.A.L. was planning to flee before her debt and term of service was completed. El Chimino threatened the woman's children telling her he knew where they lived and describing the woman's home in Honduras.

According to the indictment, in September 2002, angered because yet another woman had fled without paying her fee, El Chimino called a meeting of all the women then in debt. He told them he would burn the woman's house down in retaliation for her escape. El Chimino also allegedly assessed thousands of dollars in additional fees upon B.E.B. after her roommate fled without his permission.

In April 2004, Corea allegedly assaulted C.Y.R., a then 24 year-old Nicaraguan woman in his debt, who complained about a $1,000 fee assessed for tardiness. Corea threatened to harm her child if she reported the assault to police.

Oscar Mondragon was also allegedly involved in recruitment. It is alleged that in February 2005, Mondragon recruited two young Salvadoran women, E.C.C., 19, and E.M.Z., 20, to travel and enter the United States illegally with promises of a good job in a restaurant. Upon the arrival of the two young women in Houston, Mondragon confiscated their Notice to Appear paperwork. Olga Mondragon allegedly instructed the young women to dance with bar patrons, sit on the men's laps and to be intimate with the men.

Months later in June 2005, Oscar Mondragon negotiated to sell E.C.C., the 19 year-old Salvadoran, and J.L.O., a 16 year-old Salvadoran he had recruited but who had not yet arrived in the U.S., to another bar owner for use as “bargirls” or prostitutes, assuring the buyer that both women would be “use to captivity.” Two days later, Oscar Mondragon and Victor Omar Lopez met with an unidentified buyer and accepted a down payment of $3,000 for the two young girls. Following the illegal entry of the 16 year-old into the U. S. in late June 2005, Oscar Mondragon and Victor Omar Lopez sold the debts and the two young women for use as “bargirls” or prostitutes to the unidentified buyer.

With the exception of Olga Mondragon and Kerin Silva, who have been released on bond, the remaining defendants were ordered held without bond and are in federal custody. Each of the defendants will next appear in federal court for arraignment on a date to be set by the court.

The investigation leading to the filing of criminal charges is the result of a year-long investigation conducted by members of the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA) in Houston, Texas, which includes the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Harris County Sheriff's Office (HCSO), the Texas Alcoholic and Beverage Commission (TABC), and the Constables Offices of Precincts One and Five. Assistant United States Attorneys Ruben R. Perez and Joe Magliolo, and Trial Attorneys Lou de Baca and James Felte with the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, will prosecute the case.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant(s) are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
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