Unhappy ending for massage parlour owner

The man is accused of employing masseuses for prostitution at a number of massage parlours in Fgura, St. Julian's, Birkirkara and Hamrun 

The owner of a number of massage parlours has admitted to using them for the purposes of prostitution this morning after he and four Colombian women were charged with operating a brothel.

42-year-old Joseph Zammit from Marsascala appeared before magistrate Natasha Galea Sciberras, charged with knowingly living off the earnings of prostitution, owning or participating in the running of a brothel and permitting his property to be used for prostitution or immoral purposes.

Inspectors John Spiteri and Paula Ciantar explained to the court that the man would employ the women as masseuses, who would then offer sexual services to clients. Industrial amounts of prophylactics were also recovered from the premises and exhibited in court, together with large amounts of cash. Zammit is understood to have employed the women, who his lawyers emphasised were not trafficked, under a profit-sharing arrangement. 

A number of premises in Fgura, St. Julian's, Birkirkara and Hamrun were mentioned in the charges. Heaven's Gate in St. Julians, Blue Moon Lounge Bar in St. Julians, Passion Massage Parlour in Birkirkara and Valentines Massage Parlour in Hamrun

The Vice Squad had taken an interest in the places when routine checks showed the possibility that they were being used for prostitution.

Lawyer Arthur Azzopardi emphasised that this case was not one of trafficking for sex exploitation. “It is a clear case of keeping a brothel. The women were part of a commercial partnership and were paid from the takings of the business.” Zammit was not accused of trafficking in persons as all the women came of their own volition to work, the court was told. They all had passports, insurance, certifications and work permits as masseuses and were charged as co-conspirators.

Inspector Spiteri noted that the maximum punishment is two years imprisonment, but due to the man’s clean police conduct, the prosecution did not insist on an effective prison sentence. He requested that all massage parlour and bar ownership licences be revoked.

Zammit pleaded guilty and was handed a two-year prison sentence which was suspended for four years, together with a €450 fine and a two-year disqualification of his licences.

As the accused owned one of the premises used, this was confiscated in favour of the government. The other brothels were rented.

Four Colombian masseuses also pleaded guilty to participating in the running of a brothel.

Zabela, Mateus Suri Sarai, 31, from Colombia, Laura Alejandra De La Pena Morales, 20,  Monica Liseth Jimenez Cardona, 28 and Mary Isabel Betancourt Arteaga, 33 were all sentenced to one year in jail, suspended for two years, together with fines ranging from €100 to €150. They will all be deported.

Lawyers Arthur Azzopardi and Jonathan Abela appeared for Zammit. Lawyer Martin Fenech was legal aid to the women.

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