July 5, 2013
By Stephanie Gardiner
One woman told of how her parents died when she was young, forcing her to quit school at 12 and start working.
Another woman carried the burden of her family’s debts after the death of her older brother.
These women worked for Chee Mei Wong, a madam at Diamonds brothel in Crows Nest, on Sydney’s lower north shore, who recruited them to Australia with the promise of education and a fresh start.
Instead, the women and two others were kept in sexual servitude, working 17-hour days and having to perform sexual acts even when they refused or were sick, Judge Deborah Sweeney told the NSW District Court on Friday.
Though they were enrolled in business courses, the women were not allowed to study and were told they had to work off a debt to Wong.
Judge Sweeney sentenced Wong to at least three years in jail, with a maximum term of six years.
“They were forced by threats of deportation to perform sex acts they did not want to,” Judge Sweeney said.
“They all felt isolated in Australia away from family.
“They felt variously humiliated and lost self-esteem. It’s apparent the conditions they were made to work by Ms Wong caused them physical and emotional harm. The work the complainants had to perform under threats of deportation … was demeaning, including being paraded in front of customers wearing numbers for identification.”
Wong, 39, was found guilty of conducting a business that involved the sexual servitude of others and four counts of allowing a person to work in breach of visa conditions knowing the worker was being exploited between 2008 and 2009.
In relation to two other women, Ms Wong was found guilty of allowing a person to work in breach of their visa conditions.
During the trial Crown prosecutor Carolyn Davenport, SC, said Wong, who called herself “Yoko”, recruited the women from Malaysia and enrolled them in courses so they could get student visas, which allowed them to work a maximum of 20 hours per week.
They were told they had to work off a debt of $5000 for the enrolments, airfares and the visas.
“They were given a list of services that must be performed. Some of them immediately said … they were not prepared to perform them,” Ms Davenport said.
“They were told that they must and they did not have a choice. They were told that they were not to leave the brothel until they had paid their debt.”
Ms Davenport said that despite having the restriction on their working hours, the women would often end up working 20-hour days at Diamonds, from midday to early in the morning.
In 2009 some of the women told a former client about their conditions and he helped them go to the authorities, the court heard.
Ms Wong’s barrister, Bruce Quinn, argued she was only a receptionist at the brothel.
One victim, known as Witness A, said on her first day at work in the brothel, she told her boss she didn’t want to perform an unprotected sex act involving ice cubes and warm green tea.
Her boss’s response was: ”If you can’t do this I will send you back to Malaysia.”
Malaysia was where the woman’s debt-ridden family lived, and where she sent money to support them after the death of her older brother in 2007, she told the court.
”I didn’t see any other option so the only way was to do that work and to pay,” said the woman, via an interpreter.
Yoko said if Witness A was deported without paying off the debt, an associate would ”cause problems for you and for your family”, the court heard.
Another woman, known as Witness B, said her parents died when she was young and she left school, eventually working in the illegal sex industry in Malaysia because she could not find any other job.
After about 18 months she was offered a study trip to Australia, arranged by a man named Johnny, she said.
But when she arrived in Sydney in December 2008 she realised she would be employed as a sex worker at Diamonds.
Wong was also sentenced for two drug charges.
She will be eligible for parole in May 2016.
Read the full article here.
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