Six women charged after police raid brothels

Six women were arraigned under arrest, and other persons are expected to be charged in the coming days, in connection with a Ukrainian prostitution ring

Six women were charged with operating a brothel or benefiting from the proceeds of a prostitution
Six women were charged with operating a brothel or benefiting from the proceeds of a prostitution

Several persons are expected to be charged in the coming days in connection with a Ukrainian prostitution ring, after a raid on brothels in Birkirkara, San Gwann, Santa Venera and Hamrun.

Six Ukrainian women were arraigned under arrest before Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech this morning, charged with operating a brothel or benefiting from the proceeds of a prostitution.

They were arrested during police raids on massage parlours that are thought to be fronts for prostitution, after a covert observation operation.

Other persons, thought to be more senior figures in the brothels' operation, are expected to be charged in the coming days.

The women, Yana Barbutsa, 36, Natalia Staykova, 37, Svitlana Pabat 38, Olena Zhuk, 36, Viktoriya Mykhay, 38, and Inna Karpusha, 39, were charged in separate arraignments in court today.

Staykova, Pabat, Mykhay and Karpusha pleaded guilty to the charges and were sentenced to one year in prison, which was suspended for two years.

Barbutsa and Zhuk pleaded not guilty and requested bail.

Barbutsa's lawyer, Alessandro Lia, objected to the accusation that his client ran a brothel. “One would do well to see the wording of the charges. I have strong reservations about the allegations that the accused operates a brothel. Everything the prosecutor is telling us and the witnesses all imply that she is one of the prostitutes, but these are not mentioned in the charges.”

There were ways of ensuring that the accused didn't leave the islands. “She has been here since 19 January. She has no family members in Malta, but she has a fixed address and the means to leave a deposit on bail. “It cannot be that because a person has just arrived in Malta and is a foreigner then it is almost automatic that this person be remanded in custody.”

The court, however denied Barbusta and Zhuk bail due to their lack of ties to the island, saying that it was not convinced that the women would turn up for their hearings. It also refused the defence's request to order the prosecution to exhibit all its evidence at the next sitting.

Lawyer Josette Sultana, appearing as legal aid for Staykova, Pabat, Mykhay and Karpusha entered guilty pleas. Sultana pointed out that the women were first time offenders and suggested a suspended sentence. Karpusha and Pabat wiped away tears in the dock, the former telling the court that she had children.

Sultana objected to prosecuting inspector John Spiteri's request that the court also impose a fine on the women, saying they were not being paid much and were simply being exploited. The inspector replied that they were being paid "more than the Chief Justice."

The court agreed with the defence, saying it doubted they benefited much from their work.

The court urged the Principal Immigration Officer to consider whether it was a case for him to exert his powers under the Immigration Act and order the repatriation of the women.

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