Police bust family-run prostitution ring, fear 14 year-old girl may have been forced into sex work

The prosecution said it estimated that 15 to 20 clients would visit the brothel every day

The police said they feared that the Hungarian couple may have forced their 14-year-old daughter into prostitution
The police said they feared that the Hungarian couple may have forced their 14-year-old daughter into prostitution

After busting a local prostitution ring with international ties, police said they suspect that the 14-year-old daughter of the Hungarian couple charged with running it, may have also been forced into prostitution.

The two St Paul’s Bay residents – a 39-year-old man and a 34-year-old woman - have been charged with several offences related to them forcing of two women into prostitution and human trafficking. They were arraigned under arrest before magistrate Ian Farrugia this afternoon.

Inspectors Joseph Busuttil and John Spiteri charged the married couple - whose names cannot be published since they are still the subject of ongoing investigations - with human trafficking, forcing the women to perform sex acts on third parties for money, living off the earnings of prostitution, running a brothel, permitting an apartment to be used for immoral purposes, threatening the two women and with recidivism.

Some of the women involved are thought to be blood relatives of the couple, who are both unemployed and who appeared in the dock wearing scruffy, mismatched tracksuits. They pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against them.  

Lawyer Patrick Valentino, appointed as legal aid to the accused, did not request bail.

The fate of the woman’s 14-year-old daughter, who has been cared for by Appogg since the arrest, proved to be a sticking point. After the court suggested the girl’s relatives abroad be contacted, Inspector Busuttil argued that it was premature to communicate with foreign countries.

Valentino accused the prosecutor of being irresponsible by not obtaining parental consent for the girl to be a witness, but Busuttil was adamant.

Aside from being a potential witness, "in this type of business there is a risk that the girl is also a victim,” he said.  

“I must protect this girl from the family who are trafficking people,” he said. “I have spoken to the victims...it could be better for the girl to spend some time in an institute than to go back and end up trafficked.” Her grandparents were in prison abroad for forming part of the same prostitution ring, added the prosecutor.

“This is a family-run business,” explained the inspector. “We are talking about people being bought and sold for prostitution. One of the prostitutes is the accused man’s sister. It is too early [to allow them to know about the arrests].”

After hearing submissions by both sides, the court declared that at such an early stage justice would not be served were the girl to leave the islands.

The defence, however, insisted that the girl be allowed to contact her family, eliciting howls of protest from the prosecution.

“So we have a dwelling in which a whole family lives. There are 15-20 clients every day, the mother coordinating everything on the phone, the girl speaks English. This isn't something that happened once,” submitted Inspector Spiteri.

The girl had attended school just 15 times this year, he said. “Last year she didn't go once because her parents moved abroad.” The court was told that the family had shifted from England, to Canada, back to England, then to the Netherlands, Malta and back to the Netherlands in just three years.

The court, however, put the ball in the expert’s court.

Magistrate Farrugia said that although he didn't feel that, at this stage, the court should block all communication a priori, it was going to allow the authorities who have care and custody of the girl “to do what they feel is in the best interest of the child at this stage.”

A freezing order was imposed over all property belonging to the accused couple.

More in Court & Police