A Chinese brothel owner has been jailed for sex slavery in Australia
A female brothel-keeper has been given a ten-year sentence for keeping five Thai women as sex slaves in the first successful prosecution under Australia's new anti-slavery law.
A court in Melbourne heard that Wei Tang, a 44-year-old originally from China, had forced the women to work six days a week without pay and given them A$50 (£20) in "pocket money" if they agreed to work seven days.
Prosecutors said that the women were smuggled to the southern Australian city with the promise that they would be able to work legally in the sex trade and send money home to their families.
Instead, they were told on arrival that they had to first work off a debt of A$45,000 (£18,000) to pay for their passage to Australia, with A$50 paid off for each client seen. They had their passports and return airline tickets taken from them and were warned to avoid immigration officials because they would be deported.
Between August 2002 and May 2003, prosecutors said, each woman was forced to perform between 800 and 900 unpaid sex acts.
Prostitution is legal, although regulated, in most of Australia but the country passed an anti-slavery law in 1999 to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable women, especially foreigners.
Sentencing Ms Tang to ten years in jail - of which she will have to serve at least six years - Judge Michael McInerney said that while the women were not locked up, they were "effectively restrained by the insidious nature of their contract". The fact that they were illegal immigrants without money, passports or English skills had left them at the brothel-keeper's mercy.
"Given her background and experience of repression, it is surprising that she chose to commit such serious crimes against humanity," he added.
Sex slave owner jailed