Sisters jailed for exploiting hundreds of Thai women in prostitution racket

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The Independent Online

Two Thai sisters were jailed yesterday for running a huge prostitution ring which brought hundreds of women to Britain where they were treated like "animals" in a network of brothels.

Bupha Savada, 45, and Monporn Hughes, 40, acted as the "controlling minds" of an enterprise which had an annual turnover of at least £1.1m when police arrested them in September last year.

Southwark Crown Court heard how their Thai victims were forced to accept contracts to prostitute themselves until they had paid off the £44,000 "fee" demanded to allow them to go free or work for themselves.

Some of the women were duped into the work with promises of jobs as cleaners or domestic servants while others were threatened with violence against their families in Thailand if they did not comply.

The sisters set up a "finishing school" in south-west London to receive the women, many of whom had already worked in the sex industry in Thailand, before sending them to a network of 15 brothels in London and the Home Counties. Some 40 women were working in the brothels at the time of the arrests.

Sentencing Savada, from East Ham, east London, to five years' imprisonment and Hughes, from Borough Green, Kent, to three and a half years, Judge Paul Dodgson said the sex ring was one of the most serious cases of exploiting vulnerable women imaginable.

The judge said: "It is clear that each of the girls you controlled had to perform sexual acts with literally hundreds of men before they were allowed to share in the money their prostitution produced.

"These obligations were reinforced by threats that if they did not comply then their families in Thailand would suffer. These were girls in a foreign land, totally dependent on you and you used them as animals."

The court heard that Savada, who admitted four counts of controlling prostitution, acted as the manager of the racket, at one point selling a woman for £5,000 to another sex ring in Brussels.

Her sister, a British passport holder who admitted three counts of controlling prostitutes, played an important role in bringing the women to Britain illegally and running the brothels.

Brendan Kelly, for the prosecution, said the pair were the "controlling minds" of an enterprise which employed dozens of women at any one time and made a point of advertising their young ages.

The women were assisted by Savada's partner, Pathinage Ranasinghe, a supermarket worker from Sri Lanka who was granted asylum. Ranasinghe, 33, was jailed for two years for living off immoral earnings after he admitted ferrying the women between brothels and renting some premises in his name.