Friday, December 4, 1998

Peter Edwards

p. B1.

Raids linked to global crime

Prostitution ring just one example, officer says

A series of prostitution-related raids across the Toronto area highlights the international character of organized crime today, police say.

"Globalized crime is nothing new, but it's on the rise," Toronto police Detective Sergeant David Perry said yesterday. "I think we're going to see more of this."

Fifty-three women and 15 men were charged with prostitution-related offences after raids on 10 residences and businesses Wednesday night. The raids were the second phase of a police operation dubbed Project Trade.

The year-long investigation -- involving police from the Toronto, York, Peel, OPP and RCMP forces, as well as Immigration Canada -- was looking into a prostitution ring in which women were brought from Thailand to work in bawdy houses, massage parlors and hotels. In total, 107 people face 420 charges as a result of the probe.

Twenty-six of the suspects also face charges under the Immigration Act. They are alleged to be in Canada illegally, said Immigration Canada spokesperson Kevin Sacks.

Some of the people charged after Wednesday's sweep face deportation after their cases are dealt with in the courts, Perry said. The group contains "five main targets" who police allege were agents who brought the women into Canada, he said.

It's the first time police have seen an international prostitution ring in Toronto that imported women from Thailand, Perry said. There may also be some Korean and Malaysian ring members, he said. The arrests hurt -- but likely won't kill -- the ring, Perry said. "With that particular organization, we've made a significant impact."

"I think we've stemmed the tide of women who will be coming here for the near future. . . We've got to keep going in the same direction."

Most of the women knew they would be expected to work as prostitutes in Canada, but it's not known if they were sex workers in Thailand, Perry said. "They basically knew what they were coming here for."

The women, who police say are all adults, agreed to work off a $50,000 debt in return for being brought to Toronto, Perry said.

Massage business 'quiet'

That involved servicing some 500 customers, which took about three or four month, he said. Once they had worked off the debt, they would be given their travel documents and would be free to try to survive in Canada on their own, he said.

The police Wednesday raided a number of businesses, including one at 804B Wilson Ave; Mona Lisa Shiatsu on Bloor St. E.; East Paradise massage at 810 Wilson Ave.; Swan Palace on Bloor St. W.; Fairbanks Hotel on Dufferin St.; Taiwan Rose's Massage on East Beaver Creek in Richmond Hill; and Hawaii Volcano on East Wilmont St., Richmond Hill, as well as apartments on Eglinton Ave. W., Baymills Blvd., and Kennedy Rd.

Mona Lisa Shiatsu shares an upscale office building with a number of medical offices. Workers at the Saba Travel Agency, which also shared the building at Sherbourne St., said the Mona Lisa was a quiet place.

The East Paradise massage centre was also quiet, according to the man behind the cash register at neighboring 730 Coffee and Donuts who didn't want to be identified.

Yesterday, 19 women and 12 men charged in Wednesday's raids made an appearance in Ontario Court, provincial division, before Judge Hugh Porter.

They face numerous prostitution-related charges including keeping and permitting a common bawdy house; living on the avails of prostitution and exercising control. A publication ban was placed on most evidence, so details cannot be reported.

As the suspects were brought into the courtroom, Thai, Cantonese, Korean and Vietnamese interpreters were called to the prisoners' box to translate.

"The first hurdle we're trying to satisfy is who is in the country legally and what their real citizenship is... that's an issue we're trying to resolve before we can embark on any bail hearing," Crown Attorney Michael Leshner said during a break in court.

Four men and five women were released on bail. They return to court Dec. 7 and 8. The remaining suspects were remanded into custody until the December court dates. The remaining people charged in the raid were being processed last night.

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Created: December 7, 1998
Last modified: December 7, 1998

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