Brothel owners appear in court

2010-07-24 00:00

A SMALL group of black-clad protesters gathered outside the Durban Magistrate’s Court yesterday to demonstrate against human trafficking.

The group of about 15 from the Anti-Human Trafficking task team were eagerly awaiting the sentencing of a couple who hired prostitutes to work in their brothel in Durban.

The couple, Basheer Sayed and his Thai-born wife, Somcharee Chuchumporn, were earlier convicted on several charges of racketeering — the first conviction of its kind in South Africa.

This followed their arrest in 2007 when three Thai women fled from their brothel in Umbilo to seek sanctuary at the Thai embassy.

The three were recruited in Thailand by Chuchumporn and she was apparently well aware that they were going to be working as prostitutes in Durban.

They later told police that they were forced to flee the brothel in Umbilo because of the harsh treatment they received there.

They have since returned to Thailand.

Sayed and Chuchumporn were convicted on 19 counts in March this year.

The charges against the two included the keeping of a brothel, living off the proceeds of a brothel, aiding and abetting foreigners as well as money laundering.

They were not charged with offences under the human trafficking legislation as these offences pre-dated the passing of the act.

However, the state used racketeering laws related to sexual exploitation to convict them.

The pair now face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment or a fine of R100 million.

However, their sentencing, which was supposed to take place yesterday, did not happen as a Thai-speaking court interpreter could not be found. The case was adjourned to August 5.

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