The owners of several massage parlours in Malta have been sentenced to seven years imprisonment for human trafficking and exploitation.
Winston-Joseph Gera and Zhang Tianxia were also found guilty of keeping workers in conditions described as “refined slavery” by the court.
The case was made apparent to the police following a report by one of the workers at the massage parlour, who approached police accompanied by a representative from the Chinese embassy.
According to court proceedings, the two workers were brought to Malta in 2017 to work as massage therapists. Instead, they had their passports confiscated on arrival by the accused and were forced into working long hours in primitive conditions without any leave or days off.
It also came to light that the two employees were forced to live at the parlours and were told to wear promiscuous clothing and carry out sexual favours to clients, effectively turning the massage parlours into brothels.
“A regime of strict control which saw them continually monitored, day and night, restricted in what they could do and not do, even in their free time – if sleeping time could be described as such since the rest of their time was spent working to grow the business,” Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech said in her judgement.
The court deemed that Gera and Tianxi had total control over the two employees. With no passports and an additional living “tax” imposed by Gerada, the two employees were unable to liberate themselves and became dependent on their jobs.
The situation was described “closely approached refined slavery” by the court.
Magistrate Frendo Dimech concluded that the accused had exploited the workers “to the maximum” and ruled their living conditions substandard and inhuman.
Gera and Tianxia were subsequently sentenced to seven years imprisonment. The court also confiscated all four massage parlours belonging to the accused; Tian Oriental Massage Parlour, Yuan Oriental Massage Parlour, Mandarin Oriental Massage Parlour and Oriental Massage Parlour.
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