Nicosia police arrested a local man and took seven women into protective custody following a raid at an old hotel described as a front for prostitution.
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Law enforcement agents raided a business establishment in old Nicosia on Monday morning, around 11am, where a 62-year-old Greek Cypriot male was arrested on multiple charges related to prostitution, including pimping, running a brothel, and illegal income.
Seven Asian women and two unknown males were also found at the hotel during the raid, with an official report saying the females were taken to a “safe area” at a police station while the two males were taken to CID Nicosia.
No information was shared by police regarding the identity of the women or the two men.
Police told Knews the women were not detained but were being interviewed by special agents who were treating them as possible victims of human trafficking.
Either victims or partners in crime
But officers are also investigating the women for a number of offences, such as taking part in the running of a brothel, with police not ruling out possible charges if the human trafficking unit determines they are not victims.
Police said the investigation began after authorities received multiple statements alleging the building, which used to work exclusively as a hotel, was now being used as a brothel.
The women could face charges for taking part in the running of a brothel, if the human trafficking unit determines they are not victims
In previous raids of a similar nature, undercover male cops described as “police associates” took part in active investigations, posing as customers and paying for sex with marked bills. Money used in the transaction as well as used condoms and other items would also be collected as evidence in court.
Police did not provide details regarding Monday’s raid but an official statement on Tuesday said officers found the women in different rooms and confiscated various items including cash.
The official statement also said the raid was coordinated by officers from the Crime Prevention Unit, the Criminal Investigation Department, and the Anti-Trafficking office, who were all part of the investigation.
Prostitution is not illegal in the Republic of Cyprus, while trafficking and pimping are offences punishable by law.
But the local sex industry is currently unregulated, meaning that sex workers and those who can otherwise legally make a living by prostituting themselves could end up in prison for up to two years on misdemeanour charges for violating laws that ban the organisation and running of brothels.
Last year, the House passed a law criminalizing customers who pay for sex with trafficked women.
A legislation proposal recently sought to make paid sex a crime in the Republic, which drew criticism after a sponsor of the bill declared the female body was not for sale and couldn’t be bought.
Outgoing police chief Kypros Michaelides had declared war on prostitution, saying law enforcement agents were focusing on the “fight against prostitution” as one of the main priorities.