BREAKING LONDON WESTMINSTER

A married couple have been convicted after trafficking women in and around the UK with a view to exploit them by forcing them to be sex workers

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Wai Tsang, 52  and Wenwen Pan, 40  both of St Mary’s Terrace, Westminster, were found guilty on Thursday, 26 November – following a five-week trial at Isleworth Crown Court – of conspiracy to commit human trafficking, controlling prostitution for gain and possession of criminal property for gain.

Pan was also found guilty of two counts of possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply.

They will be sentenced at the same court on 22 January 2021.

On 23 July 2019, a woman aged in her 30s attended Kensington Police Station and told officers that she had been trafficked to England from China in December 2015 and made to work as a sex worker.

The court heard that she came to England as her husband owed a gambling debt in China. It was agreed between them that she would travel to the UK, as those her husband had the debt with were chasing her for it too as his wife. Her husband told her that his friend would collect her from London Heathrow Airport and that she would be provided with food and accommodation. 

She landed in the UK on 5 December 2015 and was met at the airport by her husband’s friend. She was taken to an address and she went to bed after her long flight. While she was sleeping, the husband’s friend entered her room and raped her. He also took her travel documents.

It was then made clear to her that her husband had sold her and she had to make money for the people who now controlled her by having sex with men. 

She was taken to other locations and had to provide sexual services – sometimes with up to 10 men a day. 

For a period of time, the victim stayed at an address in High Street Kensington where she was made to work as a sex worker. This property was managed by a Chinese man and woman, whom she understood to be married.

The victim referred to the couple as ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Mimi’ – later established to be Tsang and Pan.

Tsang was the main driver who drove the victim to ‘outcalls’, which is when she was taken to clients’ houses or hotel rooms. 

He would often wait to return her after the appointment. If the appointment was after 3am, Pan would drive. A taxi would be ordered on occasion to take the victim to appointments and it would be arranged by Pan.

The victim was not allowed to leave her room apart from when she was taken to ‘outcalls’. 

The victim gave officers descriptions of the couple and their vehicles and even subsequently picked Tsang out at of an identification procedure. 

The jury was told that Pan arranged the clients. Pan would give the victim instructions via a messaging application about a client, the address, what they wanted, what was expected, the fees that should be charged and if ‘Big Brother’ was on his way to collect her. 

Each booking ranged in price from approximately £120 to £230 and the money had to be given to Tsang.

The victim was also told to sell drugs to clients. Pan would tell her what drug the client wanted and to give it to the client when he arrived. Clients would be provided with cocaine and crystal meth. Pan was violent to the victim once when she became aware that the victim had refused to take drugs with a client. The victim was kicked by Pan and her hair was pulled out.

The victim was also threatened with violence and she was told that her family would be killed if she tried to escape.

The court heard that it was this fear of violence against herself and her family that prevented her from escaping or going to the police earlier.

After the victim worked up the courage to report her ordeal to the police in July 2019, officers began an investigation titled Operation Laius, which was led by the officers in the case PC Sam Bhangu and Detective Constable Stu Higgs from the Central West area’s Sexual Exploitation Team.

As part of enquiries, undercover operatives were deployed. The operatives contacted a telephone number, which was identified as advertising sexual services. The operatives met the women who confirmed sexual services would be provided, before making excuses to leave the addresses.

After building enough evidence against the couple, officers executed a series of warrants on Thursday, 16 January. Tsang was arrested in Waterloo Place, where he was parked in his vehicle after picking-up a woman from High Street Kensington and dropping her nearby. He was arrested on suspicion of facilitating the travel of a person within the UK with a view to exploitation and controlling prostitution for gain.

Officers searched his vehicle and found a Chinese woman’s passport and underwear in the glovebox. Inside the car were a number of carrier bags filled with boxes of condoms and multiple packets of underwear and outfits. One of the boxes was examined and was found to contain a hundred condoms – there were multiple boxes.

On the same day, a search warrant was executed at Tsang and Pan’s home address in St Mary’s Terrace, Westminster. Pan was present, but she refused to let the officers in – keeping a chain on the door.

Pan moved away from the entrance and attempted to throw a pink basket full of mobile phones out of the window, but she was prevented from doing so after officers forced entry into the flat. 

She was arrested on suspicion of human trafficking and controlling prostitution for gain.

Officers searched the flat and found 74 mobile phones – 21 phones were in the basket that Pan had tried to throw out of the window. The phones were used to communicate with potential clients seeking sexual services, with many messages telling clients to attend the addresses in High Street Kensington and Ashmill Street.

Officers also found a number of boxes containing underwear, thousands of condoms and hundreds of revealing outfits. Officers also found a number of passports.

During a search of the flat’s office, police found a large quantity of Class A drugs, namely cocaine and crystal meth, as well as a set of scales. Pan was further arrested on suspicion of possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply. 

On Thursday, 16 January, officers also executed warrants in High Street Kensington and Ashmill Street – officers found a package with Tsang’s name and address on it in Ashmill Street while the ID used on the tenancy agreement for the property in High Street Kensington was the same name as on one of the passports seized from Tsang and Pan’s home address.

Enquiries on the defendants’ bank accounts highlighted payments to websites that advertise sexual services. Pan’s bank account also had numerous payments to taxi companies for collections and drop-offs to the High Street Kensington address.

Tsang’s HMRC self-assessment return described his trade from the accounting period of March 2016 to March 2019 as ‘massage therapist’ and ‘massage services,’ however during their search, officers found no items to suggest that Tsang or Pan ran a legitimate massage business.

They were both charged on Friday, 17 January and were convicted as above.

PC Sam Bhangu, from Central West area’s Sexual Exploitation Team, said: “Tsang and Pan were part of a conspiracy directing and controlling the activities of sex workers. They had absolutely no regard for the wellbeing of the women they controlled. They dehumanised them and treated them as objects for their own personal financial gain.

“I’d like to commend the huge amount of bravery shown by the victim, not only for reporting these atrocious crimes to us but also for her vital assistance throughout the investigation, which ultimately helped us to bring Tsang and Pan to justice.

“The victim was controlled by this couple for years. She was forced to have sex with multiple men a day and she was even subject to violence and terrifying threats if Tsang and Pan were unhappy with her. She was trapped in this nightmare for months on end because she was in genuine fear of her own life and the lives of her loved ones.

“However, in the end she found the courage to go to the police, which freed her from Tsang and Pan’s toxic grasp and now sees them facing a lengthy stint behind bars.”

Detective Constable Stu Higgs, from Central West area’s Sexual Exploitation Team, added: “The Met has officers working around the clock to identify people involved in human trafficking and exploitation. We work closely with national and international partners to share intelligence, and identify and detain criminals, such as Tsang and Pan, who profit from exploiting vulnerable people.

“However, communities also have an important role to play in recognising the indicators. Modern slavery and human trafficking are often hidden in plain sight and we need the public to recognise the signs and report their suspicions. If you suspect someone may be a victim of modern slavery, tell someone. You will always be taken seriously and protection and support is available.”