By Kieran Guilbert
LONDON, Oct 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A member of a gang that trafficked 19 Asian women to Britain and forced them to sell sex in hotels has been jailed for four years, prosecutors said on Thursday.
Malaysian Hong Chin, 45, was sentenced at London's Old Bailey Court, having been convicted earlier this month on several charges including trafficking for sexual exploitation, controlling prostitution for gain, and owning criminal property.
Chin had two female accomplices, Li Wei Gao, 44, and Ting Li Lu, 47, both from China, who were convicted for the same crimes, but their sentencing was adjourned until next week, court staff said.
The trafficked women advertised sex on adult websites, and meetings with customers were organised at hotels by the gang members, according to Britain's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
About 400 room bookings were made using false details between August 2013 and March 2015 in hotels in England and Wales, with clients paying in cash upon arrival, the CPS said.
"This was an organised operation designed to traffic women into prostitution, as shown by the variety of bank accounts used to run it and the sheer amount of funds it generated," Kevin Thomson, a lawyer with the CPS, said in a statement.
"Once the women were caught up in the prostitution ring, it was invariably almost impossible for them to escape," he added.
The operation generated hundreds of thousands of pounds, with 88,000 pounds ($117,000) paid into one bank account and more than 66,000 pounds ($87,000) into another, the CPS said.
Mobile phones seized from the traffickers and victims showed hotel bookings, along with messages about the arrival of the women, their work, contact with clients and payment details.
Major hotel groups in Britain, including the Hilton and Shiva Hotels, last year pledged to examine their supply chains for forced labour, train staff how to spot and report signs of trafficking, and raise awareness among guests.
"This case demonstrates why it is so important for hotels to strengthen anti-slavery efforts, raise the knowledge levels of staff and put reporting protocols in place for when signs are spotted," Sian Lea of Shiva told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
At least 13,000 people are estimated by the government to be victims of forced labour, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude - but police say the figure is the tip of the iceberg.
Britain is regarded as a leader in global efforts to combat slavery, and passed the Modern Slavery Act in 2015 to crack down on traffickers, force businesses to check their supply chains for forced labour, and protect people at risk of being enslaved.
($1 = 0.7545 pounds) (Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Ros Russell; 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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