Woman jailed for keeping sex slaves

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The first person in Australia to be found guilty by a jury of possessing sex slaves has been jailed for 10 years.

Brothel owner Wei Tang, 44, wept uncontrollably as she was sentenced to 10 years jail with a minimum of six years.

This came after a Victorian County Court jury in Melbourne found her guilty of five charges of possessing a slave and five of owning a slave.

The eight-week trial was told five Thai sex workers, who cannot be named, were smuggled into Australia on illegally obtained visas with the promise they would eventually be able to work legally in the sex trade.


But the women were told they first had to work off a debt of about $45,000 each.

The women worked at Tang’s brothel, Club 417 in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy in Melbourne’s inner-north, and the offences took place between August 2002 and May 2003.

They had to work six days a week in the brothel for no pay over four to six months, serving 900 customers.

The women received $50 pocket money if they worked on the seventh day, the court was told.

Judge Michael McInerney said while the women were not kept under lock and key, they were "effectively restrained by the insidious nature of their contract".

That included the fear of detection from immigration authorities, they had no money, no passport, no friends and limited English, the court was told.

Tang was one of the first people charged under federal anti-slavery laws introduced in 1999.

She is the first person to be found guilty by a jury of the offences under this legislation.

Judge McInerney said he took into account that Tang had no prior convictions and the harsh background she endured in China as a daughter of a banker until she moved to Australia in 1998.

He said the victims were well provisioned, fed and provided for in order to work in Tang’s business.

Tang’s original trial ended in a deadlocked jury in May last year.

Tang and her co-accused Paul Pick, the manager of the brothel, had pleaded not guilty to five charges each of possessing a slave and five each of using a slave.

After three days of deliberations, the original jury could not decide on the 10 charges against Tang.

They found Pick, 47, of North Balwyn, not guilty of eight charges and were undecided on one count each of possessing and using a slave.

The crown prosecution told the court it was not proceeding with its case against Pick and had discharged the remaining two charges.

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