Three women initially suspected of being sex trafficking victims have been arrested in Nicosia on suspicion of taking part in the running of an illegal brothel, with police securing eight-day remands but declining to specify any provisional charges against them.
During a Saturday raid in a Nicosia apartment building two suspects described as a Greek Cypriot retired male officer who owned the property and an Asian woman were arrested on charges of running an illegal brothel, while three other females were also detained but their status remained unknown pending sex trafficking investigations.
The three women, all from Vietnam, were apprehended during the raid but their arrest status was not immediately clarified.
Police said investigators later determined there were no signs of trafficking. An incident report on Wednesday confirmed the three women had been initially suspected of being sex trafficking victims but were later detained on arrest warrants on Tuesday. A day later a Nicosia judge ordered their remand for eight days.
Recent reports in local media said officers have been known to search for prostitution ads on the internet in order to identify possible human trafficking rings
Law enforcement agents in the Republic of Cyprus have stepped up efforts to crack down on prostitution, which is legal on the island but the sex industry remains unregulated.
Police did not specify grounds for remanding the three women but told Knews on Thursday the three suspects could possibly face similar charges as they were “being held pending an investigation into the running of an illegal brothel.”
A local law still on the books makes the running of brothels anywhere unlawful by definition.
Police declined to provide a definition of a brothel within their operating manual but told Knews last week that a woman has the right to work as a prostitute as long as no other violations are being committed.
Previously police have been openly criticized for using brothel busters - undercover male cops described as “associates” who take 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.
But recent reports in local media said officers have also been known to search for prostitution ads on the internet in order to identify possible human trafficking rings. In other cases, officers respond to complaints by residents in local neighborhoods.
Last week police in Limassol filed charges against two young women from an African country accused of running an illegal brothel, after an undercover trafficking operation yielded no evidence of human trafficking.
According to a US state department report, “sex trafficking encompasses the range of activities involved when a trafficker uses force, fraud, or coercion to compel another person to engage in a commercial sex act or causes a child to engage in a commercial sex act.”
Nicosia has been under pressure to up its game against trafficking of persons, after a US report last year said the government did “not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.”