Dublin ~ Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Prostitutes forced to take more risks, says charity
Scroll down to also read the horrific details of the dangerous, brutal and tragic lives of women who worked in the many brothels of pimp Thomas J Carroll's "Family Business"
THE DEMAND for prostitutes has not decreased during the recession but male punters are forcing sex workers to take bigger risks to earn money, said Ruhama, the charity for women affected by prostitution.
Prostitutes working both on the streets and in brothels are being forced to engage with men who refuse to wear condoms and are being subjected to more physical and emotional abuse, according to the charity’s chief executive Sarah Benson.
Speaking following the publication of Ruhama’s annual report, Ms Benson said: “Women in 2009 reported horrific levels of sexual, physical and emotional abuse. The reporting of rape and sexual assault was almost universal.
“Women reported having been punched in the face, the stomach, being kicked down stairs, beaten for refusing to have sex with men, being locked in and refused food, being burned, being bitten.”
Ruhama saw its caseload increase by 20 per cent last year. The charity, which provides counselling, accommodation, education and outreach services, engaged with 196 women, of which 66 were believed to be victims of trafficking.
Two of those it assisted were children when trafficked to Ireland, with one girl aged just 15 when she was first brought here.
Almost half of 26 women trafficked into the State last year were from Nigeria, and Ruhama said most were in their 20s and located in the Dublin region. Others came from Romania, Kenya, Somalia and Slovakia.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland estimates there are at least 1,000 women working in prostitution in Ireland at any given time, and Ms Benson said this figure was probably just the tip of the iceberg.
She said legislation in the area of prostitution needed to catch up as many of those running brothels and trafficking women were able to keep their distance by monitoring operations using webcams.
Ms Benson also called for a clamp down on those found to be buying sex and said these people should named and shamed.
Beatrise, a woman who engaged with Ruhama last year, said she came to Ireland having been promised work as a nanny. However, she was forced into the sex trade as soon as she arrived by the man who had brought her here from Latvia.
“[He] said I had to pay back all the money I owed for my transport here. I spoke hardly any English and didn’t even really know where I was – I felt so sick and trapped.”
Despite an increase in demand for its services, Ruhama’s statutory funding was cut by around 20 per cent last year.
“We want to be able to continue to support these women . . . but we are seriously restricted by the funding available to us. We ask people out there who may wish to help to visit our website and make a contribution,” said Ruhama chairman Diarmaid Ó Corrbuí.
Dublin ~ Monday, August 23, 2010
Charity for women in prostitution sees cases increaseThe country's leading charity for women in prostitution saw cases increase by more than 20% last year, new figures showed today.
Ruhama assisted almost 200 women affected by the underground sex industry in 2009, of which 66 were victims of trafficking.
Two of those helped were children at the time of being trafficked, with one girl aged just 15 when she was first brought to Ireland.
The organisation said nearly half of the women brought in to the country were from Nigeria, with the majority located in Dublin.
Ruhama's chief executive Sarah Benson warned that the figures in the 2009 annual report were only the tip of the iceberg, with many more women trapped in underground operations.
"Women in 2009 reported horrific levels of sexual, physical and emotional abuse," she added.
"The reporting of rape and sexual assault was almost universal, many women also experienced sexual abuse as children and young women. Some were groomed by family members and partners into prostitution.
"Women reported having been punched in the face, the stomach, being kicked down stairs, beaten for refusing to have sex with men, being locked in and refused food, being burned, being bitten."
Ruhama worked with 59 women through its outreach initiative last year and 137 women through its more intensive casework service, where each person is assigned a caseworker and a care plan.
But despite an increase in demand for its services, the voluntary organisation saw official funding cut by around 20% last year.
Ruhama chairman Diarmaid O Corrbui said the charity was severely limited by the lack of money available.
"We want to be able to continue to support these women and develop our services, but we are seriously restricted by the funding available to us," he said.
"We ask people out there who may wish to help to visit our website, www.ruhama.ie, and make a contribution.
"We will also be continuing to attempt to have our official funding increased, as it's not possible to do the work that needs to be done without increased funding."
Since it was established in 1989 Ruhama has supported more than 2,000 women, many of whom have ended their link to prostitution.
It runs a range of programmes which include personal development, life skills, counselling, accommodation provision and education.
The charity also provides ongoing assistance to victims of sex trafficking including crisis accommodation, befriending, advocacy, accompaniment and repatriation.
Dublin ~ May 25, 2010
Scheme to aid sex trafficking victimsA new Fás-funded training scheme has been set up to help women involved in prostitution and suspected victims of sex trafficking integrate back into society, it was revealed today.
The pilot project, the first of its kind, is designed to act as a bridging mechanism providing the women with educational modules and career guidance and prepare them for possible further training.
The women are provided with a range of courses, including English, literacy, computers, sewing and creative writing, as well as assertiveness work and yoga.
Some 17 people are currently taking part in the employment agency course, which runs until October. Just one woman is from Ireland while the rest are from areas ranging from Africa to Eastern Europe.
Sarah Benson, the chief executive of support group Ruhama, said it is hoped the scheme will continue beyond the pilot phase.
“For Fás, because ordinarily you have to meet certain eligibility criteria... to take this step is a hugely positive outreach that they’re doing in terms of trying to connect with those who are in that position to try and bridge into mainstream Fetac education," she said.
“A serious consequence of engaging people in courses where they aren’t actually ready yet is that they are set up to fail.”
Ms Benson said Fas has provided just over €100,000 in funding for the scheme, which began in January.
Meanwhile Marion Walsh, the executive director of the anti-human trafficking unit at the Department of Justice, said that since the beginning of 2009, 10 people have been prosecuted for offences related to human trafficking linked to Ireland.
Most of the prosecutions have been on foot of evidence transferred from Ireland to other jurisdictions.
In Ireland one person was last year convicted of attempting to traffic a child for sexual exploitation and sentenced to six years. Ms Walsh said the Director of Public Prosecutions is appealing against the sentence, arguing it is too lenient.
Dublin ~ May 10, 2010
Carroll case is no exception in IrelandTHE STATE’S leading group assisting women involved in prostitution says that while the details of the oppression and violence inflicted by TJ Carroll and his associates are shocking, they are far from uncommon.
Ruhama, a Dublin-based voluntary organisation, says many international and Irish-organised gangs are now conspiring to traffic women into Ireland for sexual exploitation at a time when prosecutions for trafficking are non-existent.
The group’s spokesperson Gerardine Rowley said the key control mechanisms used by TJ Carroll’s gang and those he worked with – debt bondage, voodoo rituals and threats of violence – are often experienced by African women trafficked to Ireland.
“Some are also undocumented and they are afraid to go to the gardaí,” Rowley says of the victims. “In many cases they come from countries where the authorities like police forces are corrupt so they don’t think of going to the police.
“But really they’re trapped in their minds from fear and intimidation. They are so oppressed they’re not able to get away themselves and ask for help.”
The TJ Carroll case underlined not only the extent of sexual exploitation in Ireland, but also how sophisticated and lucrative it has become. Rowley says Ruhama assisted the women identified as having been trafficked into Carroll’s empire, six of whom are still in Ireland and have various immigration statuses.
“We saw the human face of these crimes. We saw the impact it had on the women and children, because two of the victims we saw were minors. It’s a wake-up call not only in terms of prioritising policing but also in terms of prioritising services to support victims of these crimes.”
Ruhama initially had “great hopes” for the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act. But two years after its enactment, while charges for brothel-keeping and controlling prostitution are regularly before the courts, no trafficking cases have progressed.
“Without total enforcement of the legislation we’re not going to have a deterrent and we’re still going to be an attractive place for criminals to exploit women in the sex trade and make huge amounts of money, which cases like the Carroll case are showing,” adds Rowley
Even operations much smaller than the network built up by TJ Carroll can be extremely lucrative.
Last week the High Court heard evidence from Det Garda Lucy Myles, of the Criminal Assets Bureau, that a Chinese woman being targeted by the bureau had made more than €1 million in recent years through running one “massage parlour” on Thomas Street in Dublin’s south inner city.
Det Garda Myles said Junxiu Hua, a convicted brothel keeper, held a number of bank accounts in different financial institutions here, and between November 2004 and April 2008 a total of €1,251,834.65 passed through them.
Gerardine Rowley says such cases, where key figures are in control of women and are becoming rich, are now the norm.
Women are operating from brothels in apartments and houses across the country. The majority are controlled in some way by Irish or foreign third parties, either by traditional pimp-style figures taking some of their earnings or by others charging grossly inflated fees to rent the properties being used as brothels, or for advertising space on websites known to advertise sexual services.
Rowley is calling for more proactive policing of Ireland’s prostitution trade and for regular raids on known brothels and other locations linked to all forms of sexual exploitation.
In its biennial report for 2007-2008, Ruhama revealed that 100 of the 431 women it helped during the two-year period were victims of trafficking, the majority from Nigeria. Six of those were aged under 18 years when they were brought to Ireland and forced to have sex with men.
Dublin ~ Monday, Saturday, May 8, 2010
A pimp's family business
By CONOR LALLY, Crime Correspondent
TJ Carroll’s recent conviction gave an insight into prostitution in Ireland, but the case did not reveal the full extent of his empire – brothels in almost every Irish county and an emerging business in South Africa – or the ruthless control he exerted over women who worked for him
BY THE TIME police in Wales arrested TJ Carroll on a December morning in 2008, the largely unknown Carlow man had amassed wealth that would have been the envy of even the biggest drug dealers in Ireland.
He’d built an international property portfolio and boasted seven-figure cash savings. Not for him the high-risk gangland world of drug trafficking and debt collection down the barrel of a gun. He specialised in exploiting the poor and vulnerable, and made tens of thousands of euro weekly from his many brothels across the Republic and the North.
He was aided by his wife, Shamiela Clark, a former prostitute from South Africa who is 16 years his junior and once went by the name of Carmen. He also introduced his daughter from his first marriage, Toma, into the business.
All three were jailed in Wales in February, but because they pleaded guilty, the full cruelty of their empire was never revealed in evidence in court. The Irish Times has since spoken at length to many senior security sources in the Republic, Northern Ireland and Britain whose investigation brought down TJ Carroll. They have revealed how foreign women were effectively bonded into near slavery in brothels in 48 locations across Ireland , and forced in many cases to hand up virtually all of their earnings.
Sources have also revealed that just before TJ Carroll was caught he was about to open brothels in South Africa especially for soccer fans travelling there for next month’s World Cup.
Born on March 26th, 1961, Thomas John Carroll was originally from St Mullins, by the river Barrow in south Carlow. He later settled in Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, married and had three children.
In the mid 1990s he established a business supplying bouncers to pubs and clubs in the southeast before branching into prostitution. At first, he joined forces with an established prostitution organiser in the southeast who later fled Ireland when a rape allegation against him emerged during 2004. Carroll quickly turned gang boss.
In 2005 he organised foreign prostitutes from apartments across Waterford, Wexford and Carlow, prompting a Garda raid when a number of women complained of being beaten by Carroll’s associates in rows over money.
Carroll fled to Galway where he quickly established himself again, targeting vulnerable women who wouldn’t go to the police.
He met Shamiela Clark, who was then in her 20s and working as a prostitute. The two became lovers, had a son and married after Carroll divorced his first wife. In September 2006, Carroll and Clark were arrested in Galway when €225,000 cash was found in properties linked to them. Under questioning they admitted controlling prostitution, according to Garda sources.
TJ Carroll told gardaí of his illegal enterprise: “It saves rapes and child molestations. It gives people somewhere to go.” Released from Garda custody pending criminal charges, the pair decided to flee to Wales.
A European arrest warrant was issued for Carroll as a major investigation led by the Garda’s Organised Crime Unit was intensified. But by late 2007 both he and Clark were in business again, this time from Pembrokeshire in south Wales, where they believed they were out of reach of the Irish authorities and under the radar of the British police.
It was here, from an old vicarage in the tiny hamlet of Castlemartin, that they built what is thought to be Ireland’s largest prostitution business, which at its height turned annual profits in excess of €1 million.
“The women used were commodities to them,” said one source. They came from Nigeria, eastern Europe, Venezuela, Brazil and other parts of South America. Some were experienced in prostitution. They had answered thinly veiled newspaper adverts for “domestic staff” and came to Ireland in the full knowledge of what they were getting into. Others, usually young, poorly educated or orphaned Nigerians, were much more vulnerable. They were trafficked into Ireland by African gangs on the promise of jobs or educational opportunities. Once here, they were forced to work in Carroll’s brothels on the pretence of paying off the massive cost of their passage to Ireland; sometimes up to €60,000 was demanded by their African traffickers.
ASSAULTS AND THREATS of violence were used by TJ Carroll’s agents in Ireland to control the women. They were constantly moved around between brothels North and South to disorientate them and to provide customers with “variety”.
Sources believe Carroll “did a deal” with major Dublin-based criminals involved in prostituting to stay out of the capital if they stayed out of his regional bases.
Carroll and Clark used two websites to advertise scantily clad “exotic babes” in brothels across virtually every county in Ireland. They were officially listed as escort agencies, but the sexual services listed clearly revealed the true nature of the enterprise.
Women were advertised in, to name but a few towns and cities, Cavan, Drogheda, Athlone, Sligo, Mullingar, Carlow, Kilkenny, Enniscorthy, Newbridge, Waterford, Newry, Omagh, Lurgan, Armagh and Belfast.
When prospective customers rang to contact a woman, the Irish mobile phones were answered in Wales by Shamiela Clark – up to 300 calls a day between 10am and 1am. She would direct the men to the brothels, often over a series of three or four calls in an effort to screen for undercover detectives. The men would be charged €160 for 30 minutes and €260 for a full hour, with “extras on request”. Women were not allowed to refuse a customer.
Most of the vast sums generated in the brothels – in apartments rented from unsuspecting landlords by well-dressed agents of Carroll’s using false names – were collected by Toma Carroll. The former law student was just 22 when she first got involved. She electronically transferred cash to her father’s account in Wales and money was also brought to Wales by Toma via car ferry. In 2007 alone, the authorities traced cash transfers of €1.13 million. At one point, TJ Carroll had €854,000 in a single Credit Union account.
Investment properties, nine in all, were traced in Wales, Cyprus, Bulgaria, South Africa and Mozambique – all are now the subject of assets confiscation proceedings. The South African properties, four in Johannesburg, were to be used as brothels that would be opened for the World Cup and kept in business thereafter.
THE FAMILY BUSINESS came unstuck when the PSNI’s Organised Crime Branch in late 2007 began studying internet prostitution advertisements for evidence of human trafficking, and an ongoing Garda operation simultaneously closed in.
A raid on one brothel in December 2007 struck gold. Paperwork for a cash transfer from one of the women to TJ Carroll was found with his name on it.
Two African women found on the premises agreed to be taken to a safe place by detectives and to be interviewed. “They genuinely believed they might be killed,” says one source.
When the PSNI contacted the Garda, it found TJ Carroll was under long-term active investigation by the force’s Organised Crime Unit, which had a wealth of information on the target. The UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) was brought in to aid the complex multi-jurisdictional investigation.
Garda and PSNI detectives continued their surveillance of TJ Carroll’s brothels, and questioned customers who were leaving the premises. Their statements confirmed that the mobile numbers on the websites were linked to the properties, and that they were being used as brothels.
Electronic surveillance also revealed that the scores of mobile numbers advertised on the websites were being answered in south Wales. Twelve women who worked for Carroll also gave statements to gardaí against him during the course of the joint Garda and PSNI investigation. Some of the women travelled around the country to identify exactly where brothels had been operating; some were open for just weeks before being closed and the women moved on.
All of the evidence was pooled and given to SOCA. It was decided that because TJ Carroll and his wife had controlled prostitution from Wales, they must be charged there, even though the brothels were in Ireland.
SOCA, with the help of the Welsh police, raided TJ Carroll and Shamiela Clark’s Welsh home on the morning of December 3rd, 2008. Clark was at home with her two young children – one fathered by Carroll and one from an earlier union. The police found 80 mobile phones – containing many incriminating texts to customers and women – two computers, receipts for rental properties and paperwork for the purchases of nine properties. Some €20,000 in cash was also found, along with rate cards and sample adverts for “leggy, flexible, kinky” women and their sexual services which were to be posted on websites.
TJ Carroll was arrested in his car a short distance from his home. “For a man with a known propensity for violence, he came quietly,” said one source.
At the same time, the Garda raided nine brothels in this country, taking a number of women to safety and arresting seven people suspected of running the logistics of the empire in the Republic. Criminal charges are imminent against at least two of Carroll’s close associates in the Republic.
TJ Carroll and Clark were jailed in February for seven and 3.5 years respectively for controlling prostitution and money laundering. Toma Carroll was jailed for two years for money laundering. Charges of trafficking against TJ Carroll and Clark were not pursued when they agreed to plead guilty to the other charges.
However, in his sentencing remarks, Judge Neil Bidder QC at Cardiff Crown Court noted: “It is more than coincidence that several of those Nigerian women tell stories of dreadful coercion and/or ended up working for you. You were willing to pay others to collect money from them, who were prepared to use threats and violence to keep them in prostitution.”
Violence and voodoo: why the women couldn't just quit
TJ Carroll used threats against family members and voodoo rituals to intimidate his sex workers
The most vulnerable and easy to control of the hundreds of women who worked in TJ Carroll’s brothels were the young Nigerians.
Their families, mostly in rural Nigeria, were approached by people known to them, with a promise of education or a job for a female member of the family in her teens or early 20s.
“The understanding would be that when they got to UK, Europe, Ireland, wherever, they’d need to work for a while to pay back the traffickers for their passage,” says one source whose investigative work helped bring down TJ Carroll.
Before leaving Nigeria, voodoo rituals were performed to “bond” the women to their traffickers.
One woman told Irish investigators that before leaving Nigeria a witch doctor had made her “swear that I will pay back the money or I am going to die”.
She was then forced to eat a heart taken from a live chicken and her hair and nails were cut as part of the ceremony. “It was very clear they had real fears as a result of the rituals,” says one source.
The women or girls – two Nigerians found working in a brothel in the Republic were aged just 15 and 17 years – were told on arrival in the UK or Europe from Africa that they owed their traffickers vast sums for their passage, sometimes up to €60,000. They were sent on the last stage of the journey to Ireland, usually by plane, and given a phone number to call on arrival.
This number was always answered by Shamiela Clark. She directed them by taxi to one of her and TJ Carroll’s many brothels. Prostitution was then presented to the women as their only way of paying their debts to their African traffickers.
The women had no idea where they were and, with no money, had nowhere else to go.
A number of men – Irish-based associates of Carroll – controlled the brothels, ensuring that no customers were turned away. If the women did not comply with customers’ requests during their 15-hour shifts in the brothels – from 10am to 1am – they were threatened and beaten.
If this did not force total compliance from the women, Carroll’s associates would make contact in Africa with agents of the original trafficking gang. The gangs would travel to the women’s families and assault them because of the “difficulties” their young female relatives were creating in Ireland.
One Irish security source says: “In some cases the women here were put on the phone to their relatives back home to be told, ‘we’ve been assaulted and it’s going to get worse for us’. The attitude was ‘you must work to pay this debt’.”
The women’s lack of education, poor English, illegal status in Ireland and limited life experience – plus the threats of violence here and voodoo curses from Africa – meant they were unable to extricate themselves from their situations.
The constant moving of the women between brothels around Ireland also disoriented them and made it difficult to develop deep friendships with other women, which could have empowered them in time.
Dublin ~ Monday, May 10, 2010
Life inside an Irish brothel
PROSTITUTION IN IRELAND: PART TWO In the second of a two-part series, Crime Correspondent CONOR LALLY looks at the dangerous, brutal and tragic lives of women who worked in the many brothels run by TJ Carroll
IN FEBRUARY 2010, TJ Carroll was convicted of running one of the largest vice rings in the history of the State. From a small house in south Wales, Carroll, with help from his wife and daughter, managed a network of 48 brothels throughout Ireland.
However, because they pleaded guilty to various charges, the full details of how Carroll and his associates built and ran the business were not revealed in evidence in court. A number of sources and those close to the investigation have spoken to The Irish Times about the full extent of Carroll’s prostitution business.
When one of the brothels run by TJ Carroll was raided in December 2007, the detectives involved were taken aback at what they found. Usually, police are stonewalled by women and prostitution organisers in such operations; in this case, officers found two Nigerian women who immediately took up an offer to be taken to a place of safety.
They gave detailed statements about how they were trafficked from Africa by gangs there and sexually exploited in Ireland by the 49-year-old Carlow man’s operation. “It was the sense of fear that existed of being beaten, even killed, that told us what was going on was very, very serious,” says one senior detective.
The evidence the two women supplied, and testimony from 10 others throughout the Republic and North that the Garda’s Organised Crime Unit, the PSNI’s Organised Crime Bureau and the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency encountered, was vital in building the case against TJ Carroll.
Along with his second wife, Shamiela Clark (now 32), he was arrested in December 2008 in Wales, and is now in prison in the UK for controlling prostitution and money laundering.
This is thought to have been Ireland’s biggest ever vice empire. One of the women’s statements outlined how a witch doctor was used to control her before she even left Africa with her traffickers, to whom she knew she would be financially indebted for her passage.
“They took me to a witch doctor and I have to swear an oath that I will pay the money or I am going to die . . . After swearing the oath they cut the heart of a live chicken. They gave me the chest to eat. They made me take off my clothes in a burial ground. Then I had to swear I would not run away and not go to the police.
“The witch doctor then cut my chest, my waist, my legs, my two thumbs and my head. I was very scared because . . . I believed them.”
Another girl was aged just 15 when she was brought to Ireland from Africa. She spoke of her continued fear of the voodoo-based “oath” she had pledged to her traffickers.
“I thought I was coming for school,” she said of her passage from Africa to Ireland. “I did not know anyone in Ireland to ask for help. I was very scared. Since I left the agency, I still live in fear. I don’t sleep at night. I’m afraid if I close my eyes I won’t wake up. I’m afraid that I have broken the oath. My family have been threatened because I am slow at paying the [traffickers’] money.”
The account of a third woman suggests a life of misery in Africa, one she hoped to escape by being trafficked to Europe.
“I was eight years old when my father started to abuse me. By the time I was 20, I had three abortions. I overheard my father on the phone one day say it was about time he sacrifice me to the cult. A friend told me she knew of a woman who comes from Europe who could help me.”
The organisation was run by TJ Carroll, a former security firm owner, and his second wife Shamiela Clark, a former prostitute from South Africa. At its height in 2007, the business generated profits of more than €1 million.
Some of the women working for Carroll were experienced prostitutes who had worked in other countries and came to Ireland, mostly from South America and eastern Europe, for what they believed would be significant earnings.
Other younger and more vulnerable women were trafficked from Africa to Ireland via other major European cities.
At this stage, the women were told they would have to work in prostitution as a means of paying off their debts to their African traffickers; €60,000 was demanded by the traffickers in some cases. Most of the women spoke little English, had no money, no idea where they were, and had no place to go to. They were placed in brothels where they lived and saw clients. Foreign women were chosen because they had no support networks in Ireland. Their services were advertised by TJ Carroll and Clark on escort websites.
When customers in Ireland rang one of up to 80 mobile numbers on the websites, they would be connected to a call centre and directed by phone to the nearest brothel. The call centre was run from an old vicarage in the tiny hamlet of Castlemartin in Pembrokeshire, Wales, where Carroll and Clark lived after leaving the Republic in late 2006 to avoid increasing Garda attention.
According to security sources in the Republic and the UK, the women faced a brutal regime in Ireland. They worked 15-hour shifts from 10am to 1am, during which time they were not allowed to turn away any clients.
The men paid €160 for a half hour, €260 for an hour, and “extras” could be negotiated. Brothels were mostly located in apartments rented for short periods under false names by Carroll’s people, using bogus stories and fake references.
Some of the youngest and most vulnerable Nigerians were forced to give all of their earnings to Carroll’s associates in Ireland. “They survived on tips from punters or on whatever ‘extras’ they could perform without Carroll’s people knowing,” says one security source.
Making money from “extras” was made difficult by Shamiela Clark’s micro management. Women would be informed by text when a customer was on the way. They would be told to text Clark when they arrived and immediately when they left. If the women ever left the brothels to go to nearby shops they were often accompanied by a minder, or engaged in near constant telephone contact with Clark from Wales.
“They were never held against their will in the sense of being locked in rooms, but they had no freedom at all,” is how one source described it.
Security sources on both sides of the Border say Carroll’s associates would beat women for anything short of full compliance with “brothel rules”.
According to one source: “It was a regime of oppression designed to keep women under total control so Carroll could make as much money off them as possible.”