35 Filipinas rescued as Taiwan cracks human smuggling ring

TAIPEI (AFP) - Police in Taiwan have busted a human smuggling ring and rescued 35 Filipinas who were forced into the sex trade, prosecutors said Friday.

The women were rescued after investigators raided two pubs in southern Taiwan on Thursday and arrested the suspected ring leader, a man identified only by his family name Hung, the Tainan district prosecutors' office said.

Hung was accused of recruiting the women under the pretext that they would be working as professional dancers. Instead, he took away their passports after they arrived in Taiwan and forced them to work as sex slaves, it said.

Hung was later released on a bail of Tw$1 million ($$42,000) while the women will be sent to a local shelter, prosecutors said.

Prostitution is illegal in Taiwan but the parliament in 2011 passed a controversial bill to allow special sex zones.

While there is no official figure for the scale of Taiwan's sex industry, observers estimate it involves hundreds of thousands of people and generates billions of Taiwanese dollars a year.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.