BERN, SWITZERLAND – A woman from Thailand who was forced into prostitution in Switzerland told police her tale, and as a result a prostitution ring that has been operating in at least four cantons has been uncovered. Seven men and women are under arrest, one of them Swiss and the rest from Thailand, accused of bringing some 50 women and transsexuals into Switzerland illegally and forcing them into prostitution.
A number of charges are being brought against those arrested, including human trafficking, money laundering and falsifying identification papers.
Bern police say a ringleader, a 42-year-old woman from Thailand who was running a house of prostitution in Bern, was arrested in Germany in late 2011 and extradited to Switzerland. It quickly became apparent to investigators that the ring was operating in several cantons and the investigation spread to Solothurn, Lucerne and mainly Thurgau, but also Basel and Zurich. The woman, when arrested, was carrying identity documents for a number of the people who worked for her.
Most of those who were brought into Switzerland knew that they were coming to work as prostitutes, say police, but they arrived with “debts” of CHF30,000 to pay off, theoretically to cover their travel. They were allowed to keep 50 percent of their earnings, to be used to repay the debt, but documents found by police make it clear that they often had to earn CHF90,000 before they could repay the debt.
A number of the victims have returned to Thailand and refuse to cooperate with police, but at least one person is under police protection here and is helping investigators.