Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sex slavery – the first convictions

It took two trials, three years and a multitude of Mr Bigs (and not so Bigs) getting off, but finally one slaver – Wei Tang – is behind bars. Only emerging through the reportage of Tang’s trial is that one of the three other (original) co-accused “F” (as she is is referred to in the official judgment (PDF), although F’s real name was widely reported at the time of her arrest, and for at least a year after) previously pleaded guilty to sex-slavery charges, and is now serving a minimum two and a half year jail sentence.

The other two original co-accused – brothel manager Paul Pick and ATO executive (and Tang’s then#-husband) John Davies meanwhile, quietly fell by the wayside. All sex-slavery charges against Davies were dropped in June 2004, which dropping seems to have been the case for Paul Pick also, only Pick later received some short-lived media attention for other charges, of possessing child pornography (for which he received a non-jail sentence). # Adding a bit of soap opera sizzle here, (but this is pure guesswork on my part), it would seem from her latest address (“North Balwyn”) that Tang took to living with Pick sometime in the last two years.

More significant though, in falling-by-the-wayside terms is that Wei Tang plainly bought her five sex-slaves on a “retail” basis only. That is, there was an obvious chain of organised crime upstream from her, none of whom have been brought to justice, with the minor exception of “F” (who, unlike Tang, helped to traffic the five women to Australia, as well as being a co-owner of them, with Tang, after they landed). While most of these Mr (/Ms) Bigs would be outside Australia, catching them should not be that hard. In particular, the practice of temporarily depositing significant cash sums in slave’s bank accounts (a must-do if they are to come to Australia on tourist visas, the standard mode of entry for third-world sex-slaves), would leave a solid paper trail.

Despite so much criminal scum having got off scot-free, it is also true that even Wei Tang’s conviction seems to have just made it over the line. Here, I’m not only alluding to her first trial and its hung jury. In Sydney, two other sex-slavery prosecutions – one of Danny Kwok, Hosea Yoe, Jenny Ong and Raymond Tan (Ong’s son)* and the second of Ngoc Lan Tran and Sally Cui Mian Xu – would seem to have come to nought. The first prosecution simply drops off the news radar after this, while the second resulted in a hung jury, with no retrial, apparently. In the last two years, a total of 17 people apparently have been charged with sex-slavery offences. Breaking these down, there are: 2 successful prosecutions, 8 unsuccessful ones (including charges dropped) (Pick and Davies, plus the two Sydney groups, above), 2 only just charged (same URL), and 5 "unknowns".

It can safely be assumed that the two known unsuccessful prosecutions have little correlation with objective innocence on the part of those charged. With organised crime networks left effectively untouched even by a “successful” prosecution, a la Wei Tang, the fear of the main witnesses in these cases – the prostitute slaves themselves – in giving evidence against their masters must be great.

Which is all the more reason that the law here needs to change, drastically. Any prostitute without Australian residency should be deemed a sex-slave, and her brothel-keepers should be automatically jailed for life, with remission only being possible by naming names higher-up.

*(aka Daniel Sweensang Kwok, Hosea Prayudi Saputra Yoe, Jenny Lai Chin Ong and Raymond Aik Tong Tan)

While I agree that the government needs to follow up on all of those involved in the trafficking chain, that sentences need to be harsher, and that the public needs to be better informed (perhaps resulting in fewer hung juries)-- it is ridiculous to say that all prostitutes without Australian residency should be deemed sex slaves. There is a huge difference between consentual prostitution and human trafficking, slavery and debt-bondage (legal or illegal). To equate them is as silly as saying, 'all sex is rape'.
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