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Colombia makes arrests in sex trafficking plot that lured women to China

by Anastasia Moloney | @anastasiabogota | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 8 September 2020 21:54 GMT

A woman stands with an umbrella outside the Opera House in Guanghzou, China, September 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

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Colombian authorities arrest seven human traffickers charged with the sexual exploitation of at least 30 women in China

By Anastasia Moloney

BOGOTA, Sept 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Colombian police broke up an accused sex trafficking ring that recruited women in Colombia and forced them into prostitution in China, authorities said on Tuesday, exposing a plot of criminal deception that preyed upon poor and vulnerable women.

Seven accused traffickers were arrested and charged with luring and sexually exploiting at least 30 Colombian women and migrants who were sent to work in nightclubs in the Chinese city of Guangdong, authorities said.

The women were recruited on social media and on WhatsApp messaging with offers of well-paid work as models in China by traffickers who staged fake photo shoots in Colombia before sending them abroad, authorities said.

"At these places, the young women were allegedly held against their will," Colombia's attorney general's office said in a statement. "Their passports and personal documents were taken away."

The traffickers imposed debts on them of $14,000, which they were forced to pay off by making $600 a day in sex work, the top prosecutor said.

The traffickers preyed on young, unemployed and poor women with "perverse deception," the office said.

Among those arrested were five women, whom authorities said arranged travel and visas for the victims who were flown via Madrid and Amsterdam before reaching Beijing.

In Latin America, sexual exploitation of women and girls remains the most common form of human trafficking.

But while most victims in Latin America are trafficked within the region, the case points to China as a primary destination for Colombian women forced abroad.

In a similar case in 2017, Colombian authorities busted a criminal ring that trafficked about 150 women into forced prostitution to China. That ring also used false job offers and made the women pay off even higher debts of $25,000 each.

Under Colombia's anti-human trafficking law, convicted traffickers can receive prison sentences of up to 23 years.

Last year, Colombian authorities convicted 19 human traffickers, down from 26 convictions in 2018, according to the U.S. State Department.

Related stories:

The price of freedom for Colombian women trafficked for sex in China? $25,000

Colombia makes sex trafficking arrests along desert border with Venezuela

Sex trafficking that starts in South America largely stays there

(Reporting by Anastasia Moloney; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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