Authorities on Sunday cracked a prostitution ring operating in the Taipei area, with the investigation continuing yesterday as officials probed possible links to international human traffickers in China and East Europe.
According to National Immigration Agency (NIA) officials, the group used Line and other mobile phone messaging apps for soliciting, with the operation making tens of millions of New Taiwan dollars in profit in the past year.
Agency official Lin Chun- liang (林俊良) said that 18 people were arrested, including the two suspected leaders — 78-year-old Cheng Tsung-te (程崇德) and a 55-year-old woman surnamed Ku (顧).
Lin said the group is suspected of having ties to global human traffickers, with three brothers, led by the eldest, Wang Ming-hui (王明輝), handling the operation.
Calling it the largest prostitution ring in northern Taiwan, authorities said that Cheng and Ku leased offices in Taipei, where they set up a “client call center” and dispatched up to 100 sex workers on a busy day.
Police officials said Cheng is considered to be the “patriarch” of Taiwan’s underground sex trade with decades of insider experience. He has allegedly chosen Ku as his successor in the business.
The suspects were rounded up in a series of raids starting on Wednesday last week, culminating in Sunday’s arrests.
Lin said that investigators had placed the suspects under surveillance and found that Cheng had eight mobile phones, while Ku had 15, to receive calls from clients as well as issue instructions and dispatch workers.
Some of the alleged sex workers were Taiwanese, while the others came from China, Southeast Asia, Ukraine and other east Euorpean countries, Lin said.
Investigators said the Wang brothers had links to human-trafficking rings in China and other foreign countries, and were headquartered in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong to evade tracking by Taiwanese police.
“Our judicial agencies have made contact with their counterparts in China. The Wangs’ office in Guangdong was also raided last week, and several suspects were apprehended, including two Taiwanese nationals,” Lin said.
The suspects are to be charged with engaging in illegal sex trade, violations of the Human Trafficking Prevention Act (人口販運防制法) and other violations under the Criminal Code, Lin added.
NIA officials said that some of the alleged call girls were migrant workers from Southeast Asia who were under contract to work as home caregivers, but had run away before being recruited into the sex trade.
They cited deficiencies in administering and monitoring visa regulations for foreigners, as the suspects included Chinese women here on 15-day independent tourist visas.
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