The police vice-squad swooped in upon a Sliema brothel on Tuesday, catching some of the women ‘in flagrante’ with their customers, a court heard on Thursday.
Two Maltese men and six Colombian women were taken to court. The suspect masterminds behind the illicit activity, Don Spagnol, 34, and Luke Farrugia, 31, both Gżira residents, were the first to face separate arraignment over charges of living off the earnings of prostitution, involvement in the running of the brothel and using the premises for prostitution.
Prosecuting inspector Joseph Busuttil explained how a lengthy operation had closed in upon the suspect racket, finally making their way into the Sliema premises finding half-naked couples engaged in sex in different rooms.
One of the men, Mr Spagnol, had allegedly exited the premises some time before the raid took place on Tuesday.
Both men pleaded not guilty and requested bail.
However, the request was strongly objected to by the prosecution in view of the fact that the women were still to testify, as were some clients caught in the act.
“We won’t ask for the women’s deportation but for them to remain to give evidence against the accused,” said Inspector Busuttil, pointing out that the risk of tampering with evidence was real.
The court, presided over by magistrate Audrey Demicoli, turned down the request, remanding both men in custody.
As the men were escorted out of the courtroom, their place was taken up by six young women, all Colombian nationals, the youngest aged 18 and the eldest 26, who were brought in one by one, weeping and visibly upset.
Kelli Johana Bermudez Patino, Yeiny Carolina Ayala Moncada, Luisa Fernanda Villalba Monsalve, Maria Valentina Sanchez Quiguanas, Laura Cristina Loaiza Acevado and Daniela Cardona Carrillo all pleaded guilty to living off the earnings of prostitution, running a brothel and using the premises for prostitution.
Premises' title transferred to women
When making submissions on punishment, Inspector Busuttil explained that the women had ended up as quasi victims since the men had apparently transferred the title to the premises onto them, upon sensing that the police were breathing down their necks.
They had even transferred to new premises, but the police had managed to track down both sites.
Defence lawyer Gianluca Caruana Curran, counsel to all six women, pointed out that his clients had cooperated with the police and that a jail term would not be appropriate in their regard.
In the light of these submissions, the court declared all six guilty and condemned each of them to a 12-month jail term suspended for four years.
“Tell her that her testimony might help others not to do the same thing,” advised the magistrate as one of the girls was led out.
After the hearings, the six girls hugged and wept outside the courtroom, tears of relief streaming down their face. Inspector Roxanne Tabone prosecuted.
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