Northern Ireland

Brothel boss 'used threat of violence' against trafficked women

A woman controlling prostitutes threatened them with violence and murder to keep them in line Belfast Crown Court has been told.

Rong Chen, 35, a former prostitute, duped women into coming to Northern Ireland believing they would have jobs as childminders, nannies or cleaners.

It is alleged that they were then made to live in "squalor," put to work as prostitutes or brothel "housekeepers" and were paid "irregular, smaller amounts" than Chen advertised in Chinese newspapers in London.

Diaries revealed however that Chen raked in a total of £282,107 over the 18 months from January 2008 until May 2009.

Trafficking

Chen, originally from China but with an address at Crestwood Avenue, Kidderminster, Worcestershire was arrested following an operation which involved the PSNI and English police.

Last month just before her trial was due to start, she pleaded guilty to two counts of controlling prostitution for gain on dates from January 2008 until May 2009, trafficking in the UK for sexual exploitation and entering an arrangement to acquire criminal property.

Her co-accused, former police officer Simon Demspey (42) from East Street in Newtownards, was also arrested in May 2009 and he later pleaded guilty to aiding and abeting Chen in controlling prostitution and entering into an arrangement to acquire criminal property.

Alongside Chen in the dock was her 44-year-old husband Jason Owen Hinton, with the same address in Kidderminster who also pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the control of prostitution.

Mr Hunter told the court the offences were uncovered when staff at the Stenaline terminal became concerned about the welfare of two Chinese women who were with a man who turned out to be Dempsey.

It became apparent the women were working as prostitutes and the investigations uncovered a further five brothels, three in Belfast, one in Newry and another in Derry.

Terrified

After those properties were raided, police rescued a further two women with the lawyer adding that of the four women, two worked as prostitutes and two as housekeepers.

The prosecuting barrister described how the women forced to work in them would spend a week at a time in a brothel before being moved on and in each, they were forced to have sex with men.

He told the court that when any of them told Chen they wanted to leave or did not want to work in the brothels, she threatened that her "boyfriend was a member of a powerful Triad gang," that she knew police officers who would arrest them and even threatened one victim that if she ran, "Rong Chen would murder her".

The women, all of whom were between 45 and 56-years-old, were left terrified, with little money and almost no opportunity to leave the houses to spend it.

While the plea in mitigation for Hinton was adjourned due to problems with his probation report, defence lawyers for both Chen and Dempsey said the pair were remorseful for what had happened and the impact the offences had had on the victims.

In releasing all three defendants on bail, the judge adjourned the case until 14 June to address the problems with Hinton's probation report and said he would sentence all three at some date after that.