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22 July, 2019
 
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Asian spa owner mounts defence

Chinese businessman pleads not guilty, says female accusers had business disputes with him

Newsroom

The Chinese owner of a massage parlour in Limassol has pleaded not guilty to trafficking and exploitation charges, while his lawyer says there are professional disputes behind the accusations against his client.

According to local media, the 48-year-old Chinese national who was arrested last month during a police raid at his Limassol massage parlour, remains behind bars following his arraignment on Wednesday.

On March 6, the suspect pleaded not guilty to 50 different charges including human trafficking and exploitation, illegally withholding passports, false imprisonment, and illegal gains.

The man’s lawyer says one of the accusers has returned to her country while the other found work at a different Chinese-owned massage parlour

During the raid, six women were detained, three of whom came from China, two from Vietnam and Nepal, and another female from Moldova. All women were being treated as possible trafficked victims, after some of them reportedly told police they came to work as professional masseuses at the suspect’s spa on a job contract offering €960 as a monthly salary.

At least two female workers accused their boss of forcing them to offer male customers “more than just innocent massages” so that the business would have a basis to charge a higher price.

The man’s lawyer says two women who leveled accusations against his client had business disputes with him, with one of them returning to China and the other finding work at a different Chinese-owned massage parlour.

But police, who have been working on the raid three months prior, believe the suspect coerced his female employees to offer “extra services” to make more money. Reports also said investigators were told the man would raise his voice if the women refused.

Investigators believe the businessman was running an illegal prostitution ring in Limassol, in the Linopetra area, where they raided the business last month and detained him along with the six women for questioning. Three male customers were also questioned during the operation.

Still in jail, bail hearing next week

The defence attorney, who sought a release on bail, also said his client has many responsibilities and business obligations stemming from his position as director of the massage parlour, an investment worth €200,000 and €3000 due in rent every month. He also argued that the salaries of several employees were at risk due to their employer being locked away.

The court heard that the businessman was not a flight risk, given his extensive financial ties and considerable investment in the Republic of Cyprus. But the judge did not immediately decide on the bail request, setting March 12 as the date for ruling whether he could be released from custody.

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