By Adela Suliman
LONDON, Oct 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Three gang members who lured women from south-east Asia and set them up as prostitutes in hotels in 12 British cities were found guilty by a London court of human trafficking.
Two women and one man, all from south-east Asia, were convicted of multiple prostitution and sexual exploitation offences following the trial at the Old Bailey, Britain's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said in a statement.
The CPS said 19 women were brought to Britain and forced into prostitution, advertising their services on a range of adult websites.
Once phone numbers were dialled from the adverts the numbers connected to the gang who then arranged over 400 bookings in hotels between 2013-2015 under false details, the CPS said.
The hotels were located in busy commuter and tourist towns including Brighton, Bournemouth, Cardiff and Exeter.
Mobile phones seized from the gang and the women showed hotel bookings, along with messages about the arrival of the women, their work, contact with clients and payment details.
Local media reported the women came from Hong Kong, China and Korea with one woman telling police she was a victim of debt bondage, meaning she was forced into sex work to repay a debt.
"The gang exploited vulnerable women, putting them to work in situations which exposed them to serious potential risks," said Kevin Thomson, a lawyer with the CPS.
"Once the women were caught up in the prostitution ring, it was invariably almost impossible for them to escape the life they had been forced into."
The operation generated up to 150,000 pounds ($195,000), said the CPS, which relied on the funds to help convict the defendants who are expected to be sentenced on Oct. 26.
Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA) recently said modern slavery and human trafficking was more prevalent across Britain than previously thought, with 300 live police operations underway in August.
Britain is regarded as a leader in global efforts to combat modern slavery, with an estimated 40 million people enslaved worldwide, according to figures released last month.
In 2015 the UK passed tough anti-slavery legislation introducing life sentences for traffickers and forcing companies to disclose what they are doing to make sure their supply chains are free from slavery.
($1 = 0.7658 pounds) (Reporting by Adela Suliman; editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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