x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Filipino 'gang' held over trafficking

The defendants were caught in a police raid earlier this month in three buildings in Abu Dhabi after a woman who had been trafficked called the police.

ABU DHABI // A "criminal gang" of 17 Filipino men and women has been arrested on suspicion of human trafficking. The defendants were caught in a police raid earlier this month in three buildings in Abu Dhabi after a woman who had been trafficked - one of nine the gang was holding captive - called the police. The victims were all from the Philippines. Three women led the ring, police said, and forced the victims into prostitution after holding and threatening them.

The victims were lured into the country by false promises of lucrative jobs, according to a police statement. All used visit visas and were 23 to 33 years old. This ring, uncovered early this month, is one of the largest human-trafficking rings across the country, the police said. "The police confiscated money from the defendants, which included US$18,000 and Dh12,128 in cash and Dh54,000 in one of the defendants' bank accounts," said Col Hammad al Hammadi, the head of the CID.

Col Dr Rashid Bu Rasheed, the head of the organised crime section at the CID, said other people outside the country oversaw the recruitment operation. He said all the victims are now in a shelter in Abu Dhabi. Police are still investigating the sponsors who issued the visas for them, he said. The defendants confiscated the victims' passports immediately after they arrived in the country and forced them into the sex trade, sometimes escorting them to hotels, said Mr al Hammadi.

Police said the defendants confessed to the charges, including prostitution, facilitating the sex trade, deceiving the victims by promising them jobs in the country, issuing visas, holding them captive and forcing them into prostitution. The defendants could be sentenced to life in prison if found guilty. hhassan@thenational.ae