Triads target British sex trade

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The Independent Online
Foreign women are being smuggled into Britain to work as prostitutes in growing numbers by criminal gangs, including the Russian Mafia and Chinese Triads, one of the country's most experienced vice officers has revealed.

Police believe that gangsters are attempting to expand and take over parts of this country's multi-million pound sex industry. They have sent evidence to the Home Office and urged them to help co-ordinate action to tackle the growing problem. The report, by Scotland Yard's Clubs and Vice Unit, warns that the trafficking in foreign prostitutes has almost certainly spread to most cities and is threatening to "grow into a major criminal activity". The unit has evidence that organised criminals from the Eastern Bloc and Hong Kong have been bringing over women to work in brothels and escort agencies.

It is also understood that MI5 has uncovered evidence of members of the Russian Mafia moving into Britain's vice world while investigating other forms of organised crime. The underworld members and crooked "businessmen" are particularly interested in prostitutes working in escort agencies, brothels and saunas, which are highly profitable.

In one case a Brazilian man brought in about 100 women from his home country over a five-year period and forced them to work in two London based escort agencies. The women charged a minimum of pounds 250 for one and a half hours, but received only a tiny amount of the money. This one operation is believed to have netted the pimp pounds 5m.

Evidence has been found to show that Triad gangs from Hong Kong have run brothels in London, Manchester, Dublin, and Glasgow and detectives believe they exist in most cities with a large Chinese community. They found that women were being moved around the country and were treated virtually as slaves.

The Metropolitan Police's vice unit, which covers the country's largest concentration of prostitutes, prepared a report, "Trafficking in Women for Sexual Exploitation" for chief constables and the Home Office.

The author of the report, Inspector Theo Dawson, the former head of the vice unit, now head of the gaming section and organiser of the National Vice Conference, said: "The trafficking of prostitutes from abroad is on the increase. I don't think we appreciate the scale of the problem." His report said the Triads "continue to open up new brothels and bring females into the UK with considerable ease".

Until now, despite warnings, there has been very little evidence of criminals from the old Soviet bloc moving into Britain. However, vice officers have found direct links between Russian prostitutes working in London and high- ranking East European criminals. One pimp told the police that he wanted to be the "vice king of Soho".

Insp Dawson said: "We have intelligence to suggest that East European organised crime is infiltrating and developing prostitution in this country. They have identified that there does not appear to be any home-grown crime organisation controlling prostitution ... Given the Mafia's propensity for violence it will be easy to them to scare off any opposition."

His report concludes: "Trafficking in prostitution is a problem which if not tackled will grow into a major criminal activity and undoubtedly bring with it other serious criminal offences ... What is of most concern, and here there are parallels to the drugs industry, is that what we uncover is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg."

The vice invasion, page 4