Police round up sex workers in a crackdown on the sex trade in Dongguan, Guangdong province, Feb. 9, 2014. (File photo/Xinhua)
Police in Germany on Tuesday busted a gang suspected of engaging in the illegal sex trade that allegedly opened seven brothels over the past five years.
The person running the brothels–a 35-year-old Chinese woman–was suspected of bringing 200 women from China into Germany for sex work but failing to pay their social insurance premiums on their behalf.
The suspect also allegedly stole wages from the sex workers, according to the police.
At 6 am Tuesday, authorities mobilized more than 200 police and customs officers in a simultaneous search of 14 buildings in Frankfurt, Wetteraukreis and Munich, including seven “Chinese brothels.”
During the search, they arrested the suspect and her assistants, and seized documents that police said offered proof of the suspect’s illegal practices.
The police said the suspect had opened seven brothels in residential areas in Frankfurt since August 2012 that now employ nearly 200 women, most of them Chinese nationals. She ordered every employee to turn over half of their earnings to her.
The Chinese sex workers were allegedly brought to Germany under the legal pretense of getting married, which seems to have been a ruse. A number of travel agencies run by Chinese immigrants in Germany are suspected of providing the required visa documents for the workers.
The gang set up a website and clients were given information on how to reach the brothels once they made their booking.
To neighbors, the brothels were an open secret. “In the evening you can see the red light,” said a Hesse Radio broadcaster who lives close to one of the establishments.
Sex work is legal in Germany, and workers pay taxes and participate in the social welfare system under the protection of labor laws.
A Frankfurt prosecutor said there were 11 Chinese women working at the raided brothels who did not have legal residence permits and the brothel operator did not register 57 women as employees or pay the equivalent of NT$20 million (US$651,000) in social security premiums required by law.
The brothel operator was found to have remitted revenue back to China and will face money laundering charges, police said.
Legal experts said that if found guilty, the suspect will face a potential sentence of 15 years in jail while the sex workers will be deported back to China.
The involvement of Chinese nationals in the sex trade in Europe has spread in recent years. In February, Paris police cracked a sex trade website that hired more than 200 female workers, all from China.