There were emotional scenes in court today as three prostitutes embraced and thanked their Maltese employer right after he was found guilty of living off prostitution.
Carmel Schembri used to rent properties in Luqa, Hamrun and St Paul’s Bay and use them as massage parlours. However, his business crashed to a halt after a police investigation found out the masseuses, who hail from the Dominican Republic, had also offered sexual services to their clients.
Unlike other massage parlour brothels, Schembri used to pay VAT and issue client receipts under his name. He pleaded guilty and was fined €1,500 as well as given a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years, while the prostitutes were deported.
However, the circumstances of the case clearly indicated that this was not a case of human trafficking and that the women were actually content in their line of work. Indeed, one of them had returned to Malta three times to work at Schembri’s massage parlours and all three of them had lived in a three-bedroom apartment in St Julian’s.
When Schembri left the courtroom, he came face to face with his employees, who were about to be charged right after him. With tears in their eyes, they embraced and thanked their former employer and told him how glad they were that he hadn’t been sentenced to jail. Schembri told them to take good care of themselves but warned he wasn’t allowed to speak to them as their case was still ongoing.
The case bears similarities to one witnessed by the courts a few months ago, when a Ukrainian prostitute teared up on the witness stand and told the magistrate that her employer used to treat her better than her own father had.
During today’s proceedings, Schembri’s lawyer Arthur Azzopardi urged the government to regulate prostitution so that the industry no longer operates within the black market.