MONTREAL (AFP) - Canadian federal police said Wednesday they have arrested the leaders of a prostitution ring that smuggled at least 500 women mostly from China and South Korea into the country.
Six people, most in their 20s or 30s, were arrested in Toronto and the Montreal area and charged with prostitution-related crimes.
Two others are still wanted by police, including a woman alleged to have recruited young women into the prostitution ring.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement the group is linked to an Asian triad that helped smuggle the women into Canada.
"We don't know the exact number of victims, but we estimate it is more than 500," Constable Erique Gasse told a press conference.
Police are combing through data on seized cellphones and computers to try to identify all of the women who were sexually exploited and a list of johns, he added.
Police said the women illegally entered Canada through the land border with the United States or airports, sometimes using visas "obtained through false pretences."
Once here, they were sent to bawdy houses for several weeks or months at a time in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, and then returned to their respective countries.