Tag Archives: Hong Kong

Hundreds Arrested in International Child Porn Case

348 people arrested and 386 children rescued

Toronto police announcing an international child pornography bust said Thursday that 348 people have been arrested and 386 children rescued from situations around the world where they were at risk.

Toronto police announcing an international child pornography bust said Thursday that 348 people have been arrested and 386 children rescued from situations around the world where they were at risk.

Police say a sweeping child pornography investigation that began with a Toronto man has led to at least 386 victims being rescued.

Toronto police say 348 people have been arrested around the world as part of Project Spade, which they described as one of the largest child porn busts they’ve ever achieved.

Hundreds of thousand of the images, filling 45 terabytes or a stack of paper reaching as tall as 1,500 CN Towers,  found featured “horrific acts of sexual abuse — some of the worst (officers) have seen,” said Inspector Joanna Beaven-Desjardins, who heads the Toronto police’s sex crimes unit.

They say 50 of those arrested are from Ontario and 58 are from other parts of Canada.

Police say school teachers, doctors and actors were among those arrested.

The Toronto man at the heart of the investigation was allegedly running a company since 2005 that distributed child pornography videos.

Police allege the man instructed people around the world to create the videos of children ranging from five to 12 years of age, and then distributed the videos to international customers.

“We’ve worked a lot of big cases. This is by far the biggest,” said one source.

‪The company, Toronto-based Azov Films, sold mail-order DVDs and streamed online videos of naked boys from Germany, Romania and Ukraine, which it marketed as naturist movies and claimed were legal in Canada and the United States.

‪According to police in Spain, where 38 suspects were arrested last year, the Canadian firm earned $1.6-million annually from sales in 94 countries.

‪The head of the company, 41-year-old Toronto resident Brian Way, has been in custody since his May, 2011, arrest after an online undercover operation.

‪Records at the Finch Avenue courthouse in Toronto show that, in addition to indicting him with 23 child-pornography-related criminal counts, prosecutors took the unprecedented step of designating Azov Films as a criminal organization and charging Mr. Way with giving directions on behalf of a gang.

Originally enacted to fight criminal bikers, gangsterism offences bring stiffer penalties because they have to be served consecutively to other jail terms.

Inspector Joanna Beavan-Desjardins at news conference (14 Nov 2013)

Inspector Joanna Beavan-Desjardins said 108 arrests were made across Canada

‪Mr. Way’s mother, Sandra Waslov, who is believed to be in the U.S., was named as a co-conspirator, along with a German videographer, Markus Rudolph Roth.

‪About 100 people have been arrested in Canada, including 45 in Ontario and 45 in Quebec, police sources said.

‪According to U.S. court documents, the Azov investigation was prompted by about 20 complaints to Toronto police.

‪Some of the complaints came from other law-enforcement agencies, some from cyber-tipsters and even some from business rivals of Mr. Way, sources said.

‪Azov was not exactly a covert operation: It was incorporated, held trademarks and fought for them in very public legal battles that stretched over years.

‪Starting in 2004, David Eisenlohr, a California mail-order distributor selling what he calls European naturist videos, complained to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that Mr. Way was stealing his films and reselling them online at a cheaper price.

‪Mr. Eisenlohr then came to the attention of U.S. investigators in March, 2006, when photo-lab employees at a Wal-Mart in Virginia saw a man, David Tetterton, trying to print explicit photos from their self-serve kiosk. Evidence seized from Mr. Tetterton’s house led to Mr. Eisenlohr, who was indicted with trading child pornography.

‪Even as he faced criminal charges, Mr. Eisenlohr continued his campaign against his Canadian competitor. In 2007, he wrote a letter to then Canadian justice minister Rob Nicholson to complain about Mr. Way “stealing my intellectual property using the internet” and ask whether there were laws in Canada to stop him.

‪“It’s crazy, guys arguing over what we consider child-exploitation material,” one police detective said about the feud.

‪In court, Mr. Eisenlohr successfully argued that his nude videos were not pornographic and he was acquitted in 2009.

‪The following year in Romania, a German man arrived in the Transylvanian city of Zalau and began offering martial-arts classes to local boys.

‪The man was Mr. Roth and he was arrested in August, 2010, and sentenced to three years of prison for taking more than 100 pornographic films of children. Authorities said the films were sold to Canada at $1,000 a piece.

Two months after Mr. Roth’s arrest, Toronto police and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service began their Azov investigation, accessing the company website and making undercover purchases.

Toronto police infographic on Project Spade

Toronto police say over 50 countries were involved in the inquiry

‪They found that orders to the U.S. transited through a warehouse near Buffalo before being shipped by USPS Priority mail.

‪Toronto police executed a search warrant at Azov’s Etobicoke offices on May 1, 2011, and seized hundreds of DVDs, computers, business records, shipping labels and customer order histories, according to U.S. court documents.

‪Police sources estimate about 100 children were rescued as a result of the investigation.

‪Sources say the investigation identified 10 to 15 children in Ukraine and Eastern Europe, who modelled for photographers connected with Azov.

‪In addition, the sources said, as Azov clients were identified around the world, police uncovered more children who were victims of those customers, who were either “hands-on abusers” or who secretly videotaped them.

‪In one case, the Azov probe led to the arrest of Richard Keller, a pediatric endocrinologist in Andover, Mass.

‪A search at Dr. Keller’s house uncovered videos that appeared to have been shot at the Cap d’Agde nudist colony in southern France. The camera operator’s forearm and wristwatch are seen at one point. Investigators then executed a second search warrant to see whether they could find a matching wristwatch.

‪Several of the American defendants contend the videos they bought aren’t pornographic at all, but just legal videos of naked boys, using the same argument that led to Mr. Eisenlohr’s acquittal. U.S. courts so far have sided with the prosecution and a number of defendants have already been found guilty.

‪In Canada, the Criminal Code’s definition of child pornography includes images where a minor’s genitals are depicted for a sexual purpose.

‪Canadian police say they’ve obtained legal opinions from prosecutors that the material sold by Azov qualified as child pornography.

“What did they think they were buying?” one officer said about customers who argued they bought legal naturist films.

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Hong Kong Sex Workers Forced to Pay for Good Reviews Online

JJJ association set up counter to help local sex workers at TST district. Photo taken from inmediahk.net (CC: AT-NC)

Written by inmediahk.net

Many believe that the Internet has empowered individuals and social minorities by giving them a voice. For sex workers, however, it is another story. As Hong Kong law criminalizes “the exhibition of advertisement on sexual service” and “conspiracy to live on earnings of prostitution of others”, they cannot run their individual websites and are exploited by those who are capable of running sexual service promotion sites overseas.

Mavis Siu for Hong Kong-based inmediahk.net investigates the manipulation of sex workers by website sex141.com, which is the biggest portal website for sexual services in Hong Kong. Her article originallyappeared on inmediahk.net on July 24, 2013 in Chinese. The trimmed English version has been translated by Alpha Au and republished on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

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A number of newspapers have exposed that sex141.com has taken advantage of “Money-Drop Review”, a customer review of service, to scam money from sex workers who were smeared by anonymous Internet users and ghostwriters unless they paid to get good reviews from the website-recommended ghostwriters. JJJ Association [zh], an organization defending the rights of sex workers, has debriefed the situation to local journalists.

Yet many still wonder: Why do exploited sex workers continue to register and have their profile shown on sex141?

Monopoly of the online sex industry

The scams that exploit sex workers are related to the monopoly of the porn site business in Hong Kong.

There are three major porn sites in Hong Kong, with sex141 being the most active with its index on “One-Woman Brothels”, the term for sex workers working out of small, often one-room apartments in the city. sex141 was created in 2002 by a local university graduate[zh]. The website allows sex workers to publish ads as well as offers a forum. Originally, it was based in Hong Kong, but after the owner was convicted of ”conspiracy to live on earnings of prostitution of others” in 2006, the web server has moved to the US, managed by a company called Black Lotus Communications. In recent years, it has expanded to other Asian regions such as China, Taiwan, and Macau.

The site that targets the Hong Kong market has a “VIP girls database”, which categorizes the registered sex workers according to location of their workplace to make the search results more convenient to customers. A campaigner from the JJJ Association said the porn site is very resourceful. For example, they have a legal team to back up their work.

Their web ranking and popularity is high and thus has established their monopolized status in Hong Kong. According to alexa.com, sex141 was ranked 126th in web traffic in Hong Kong, while two other similar porn sites “Miss 148″ and “161 Sex” were ranked 1,088th and 1,638th respectively.

Miss Ho, a sex worker registered on sex141 for more than a year, believes that the high popularity of sex141 is a result of its marketing techniques. Other than the main site, sex141 also runs an online forum [zh]. The forum’s content is no different from any other public forum, except it has a lot of ads from sex141 and other sex-related products and services. The forum ranks 148th on Alexa.

Just like other porn sites, sex141 comes with a “paid member” system, under the name “Sponsored Member Scheme”. Members who donate $300, $1,000 or $8,800 have different user rights, such as taking or viewing the sex workers’ photos, reading service reviews, watching online videos and using search and other functions. Members could also earn credits in the forum to obtain more user rights.

Miss Ho pointed out that sex workers are the biggest source of income for sex141. “We pay 1,300 Hong Kong dollars [about 180 US dollars] each month for putting up ads,” she said. Currently, there are more than 3,000 sex workers on the site. It’s estimated monthly income is in the millions.

The high cost of bad reviews

Miss Ho agrees that sex141 is an effective platform for advertising their services. It helps her business. “I cannot explain why clients are so dependent on the site, anyway it helps us get more clients,” she said.

Yet sex141 wants to extract more from the sex workers in addition to their monthly ads fee. Miss Ho pointed out that sex141 has “many different tricks to exploit sex workers”. For instance, there is a “Star of Today — Flower Box” on the main page. The website has a function that allows clients to buy virtual flowers for the sex workers. But in most of the cases, the sex workers are paying 300 HK dollars (about 40 US dollars) to get themselves 30 virtual flowers from the system for self-promotion.

“These things are tricky, but none is worse than “Money-Drop Review”, she said.

“Money-Drop Review” is a recently added feature. It encourages members to write bad reviews, such as the service was terrible or even that the sex worker has sexually transmitted diseases. The writers are not responsible for the reviews, nor do they have the responsibility to offer proof. The reviews smear the sex workers, and they have to pay for good reviews.

“It costs $200 to delete a bad review. If the smeared sex worker was not a paid member of sex141, she has to pay 1,300 HK dollars [about 180 US dollars] to become a member, and another 1,000 HK dollars [about 130 US dollars] for FeiLung [a ghostwriter recommended by the website] to write three good reviews in order to maintain a positive image and business”, Miss Ho added.

This “Money-Drop Review” not only forces the paid sex worker members to pay more, but also forces others to join the site.

“141 could have raised the ads fee to, say, 3,000 to 4,000 HK dollars [about 400 to 520 US dollars], the sex workers could then choose whether or not to continue using their service,” Miss Ho indignantly said . The current bad review system has caused emotional stress as much as financial burden.

Miss Ho heard that one sex worker spends 10,000 HK dollars (about 1,300 US dollars) per month on ghostwriting, and some even get depressed and suicidal because of smearing. When a bad review accuses a sex worker of having sexually transmitted disease, her business will go down immediately.

Given the nature of their work, sex workers have no way to look out for bad reviews or refute untrue allegations. If they want to get laudatory words, they have to use the ghostwriter service. Miss Ho questioned why sex141 does not protect their sex worker members: “After all, we are the ones who pay for the ads! Why does the Money-Drop Review only target us? The other ads on the site like finance companies, sex products, and sexual hotlines do not have a similar review feature.”

The website defends their review feature citing freedom of speech. However, the “bad reviews” cannot be proved right and the review writers are not responsible for their untrue remarks. The “freedom” has undoubtedly hurt the sex workers. Miss Ho questioned, “When the information includes the workers’ addresses, names and phone numbers, how would its influence be unrelated to the real world?”

The admin of sex141 forum suggested that “the recommended reviewers “FeiLung” and “GwatZingKoeng” are chartered writers and are not employees of the site … no one is allowed to charge in the name of sex141.”

But Miss Ho questioned, “If there is no embedded interest, why does the advertising department of 141 recommend the two ghostwriters to us?” Inmediahk.net’s contributing reporter tried to contact the staff of sex141, but received the reply, “You know the nature of our website. We don’t accept media interviews. No comment.”

A member of the JJJ Association said that they have introduced other websites of similar nature to local sex workers, but the lack of popularity and view count cannot help them to attract clients. The association once considered setting up a new platform, but once they were confronted with legal risks and technical problems, they were forced to drop the idea. It appears that the workers have no other choice but to keep on “paying for their own discomfort” if the monopoly situation continues.

http://sex141.com/

Slave maids cost the price of a smart phone

Editor’s Note: Susan Ople is founder and president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, a Philippine non-profit organization dedicated to helping distressed Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) with labor and migration issues. The center also provides free legal help to human trafficking survivors, and other free reintegration services. She was named as a U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Hero of 2013.
http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2013/210547.htm

By Susan V. Ople, Special for CNN

If you ask young people what they could get for U.S. $200 or less, their answers would probably include a tablet, a smart phone, or a designer bag. Not on the list, a foreign maid – unless you live in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, or any country in the Middle East.

In the United States, maids are for the rich and famous. Modern-day slavery in the western world commonly wears the face of a prostitute, a trafficked child, or an illegal migrant exploited by his or her employer. For third world countries, human slavery often has the face of a domestic worker isolated from society and kept invisible inside private homes of their employers.

As an advocate for migrant workers’ rights, I have seen slavery up close. It has many faces: a jealous female employer, sexual predators, pimps, illegal recruiters, and corrupt officials. Common among them is the belief that a foreign domestic worker is a commodity to be used or sold, or both.

Sarah (not her real name) was a Filipino domestic worker sold 11 times to different employers in Saudi Arabia. She ended up in a hospital after being beaten black and blue by the last of her employers. She was repatriated home without months of unpaid wages. Slavery has left its thumbprint in the way she speaks, at times incoherent, and in her distrust of people.

In Malaysia last year, the Singaporean owner of a manpower agency was tried for human trafficking. “Here in Malaysia, I am your god,” the employer told two Filipina maids whose faces he slapped repeatedly. In this case, close coordination among the victims, two governments (Philippines and Malaysia), and the non-profit organization that I head, the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, resulted in a conviction. The challenge lies in trying to replicate the same model for victims in other countries.

The Ople Center is named after my late father, former Philippine labor and foreign affairs secretary and senator Blas F. Ople. Born of humble beginnings, he developed the Philippine overseas employment program as labor secretary during the Marcos era. In those days, the Philippines deployed mostly nurses, engineers, construction workers, and other skilled workers primarily to the Middle East.

Today, our case files are filled with the stories of abused Filipino maids sold by foreign agencies to different employers for an average monthly wage of $200. Our mission, in partnership with the Philippine government, is to bring them home to safety. We offer training to equip these individuals with alternative skills that will allow them better, safer jobs and an enduring freedom.

Recently, the Philippines forged a landmark bilateral agreement with Saudi Arabia that prescribes a minimum wage of $400 for Filipino maids, days of rest, and quick response mechanisms for abused Filipino maids. Our government is negotiating similar agreements with other countries.

In June, I received the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Hero Award from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington DC. While receiving the award, I thought of all the abused women that we rescued around the world. They are the real heroes fighting to give a better life for their families.

Behind every foreign maid is a family trying hard to survive poverty. Some societies choose to look down on them for the work that they do. Yet, fighting slavery starts with being kinder and more respectful as a person, as a nation, and as an entire civilization. A person enslaved diminishes us all, regardless of what we do and who we are.