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Suspect jailed after forcing trafficking victims to work in Australian brothels

Image of man in prison

AUSTRAC information contributed to a law enforcement investigation into a syndicate involved in the trafficking of women from Thailand to Australia. The suspect pleaded guilty to conducting a business involving sexual servitude and making a false statement to an immigration official.

The suspect was sentenced to two years and three months imprisonment.

The syndicate used a bank account to conduct a range of transactions to facilitate the trafficking. The investigation ultimately disrupted the Australia-based syndicate.

Australian law enforcement identified an Australia-based suspect who organised for foreign women to work in brothels in Australia. The suspect organised the placement of 11 women in brothels, where they were forced to work to pay off a large debt owed to the suspect. They incurred the debt in return for being brought to Australia.

A broker recruited the women in Thailand and organised passports, visas and other travel arrangements. Each of the women agreed to repay a 'debt' of approximately AUD53,000 after arriving in Australia. Some of the women were made aware that they would be working in the sex industry, while others were misled as to the nature of the work they would be required to perform.

Each Australian brothel deducted its fee and paid the remainder of the earnings to the women. The women used these funds to repay their debt to the suspect by transferring funds electronically into the suspect's bank account or by depositing cash into the suspect's account. In the case of one brothel, the repayments were made by giving cash directly to the suspect.

At the request of the law enforcement agency, AUSTRAC produced financial intelligence assessments which analysed various aspects of the suspect's financial activities.

AUSTRAC identified that:

  • the suspect used aliases and variations of her address when conducting transactions
  • significant cash transaction reports (SCTRs) revealed the suspect had withdrawn AUD53,000 cash from a bank account over a one-month period
  • over an eight-year period the suspect, using her own name and a number of aliases, sent 90 international funds transfer instructions (IFTIs) to individuals in Thailand, totalling approximately AUD455,000.

Analysis of AUSTRAC information identified an individual in Thailand who was suspected of being a broker who arranged the trafficking of women from Thailand into Australia as part of the sexual servitude syndicate.

Over a 12-month period the suspect in Thailand received 37 IFTIs from Australia totalling approximately AUD320,000. The IFTIs were made through banks and were sent by Australia-based employees of the main suspect in Australia, as well as the 11 women. The IFTIs showed the women shared common addresses. Authorities suspect the cash payments were structured into amounts of less than AUD10,000 to avoid the cash transaction reporting threshold. AUSTRAC disseminated information to a Thai law enforcement agency to assist its investigations into the syndicate's operations in Thailand.

On average, it took approximately six months for each woman to pay off their debt to the suspect. Enquiries revealed that of the AUD53,000 each woman was required to pay back to the suspect, the broker in Thailand was paid AUD20,000. The main suspect made a profit of approximately AUD10,000 to AUD18,000 per woman.

As part of the arrangement, after the women arrived in Australia the suspect assisted them to apply for a protection visa. To substantiate a claim for refugee status the suspect provided the women with false information about the conditions they had each experienced in their home country. The suspect also coached the women on how to answer questions from Australian authorities about their visa application.

The suspect pleaded guilty to:

  • conducting a business involving sexual servitude over a three-year period contrary to section 270.6(2) of the Criminal Code Act 1995
  • making a false statement to an immigration official in connection with an application for a protection visa contrary to section 234(1)(b) of the Migration Act 1958.

The suspect was sentenced to two years and three months imprisonment.

Offence
  • People trafficking
  • Sexual servitude
Customer Individual
Industry Banking (ADIs)
Channel Electronic
Report type IFTI
Jurisdiction International - Thailand
Designated service Account and deposit-taking services
Indicators
  • International funds transfers to a country of interest to authorities
  • Large cash withdrawals within a short time frame
  • Multiple customers linked by common addresses, conducting international funds transfers to the same overseas beneficiary
  • Multiple international funds transfers below AUD10,000
Last modified: 30/07/2015 15:36