3 held in sex slavery

Cops: Women lured from overseas

By TAMARA CHERRY, SUN MEDIA

She came to Canada answering an Internet ad to work as a model.

Instead, a 21-year-old woman from Eastern Europe was confined and forced to work as a sex slave for what police are calling the ringleaders of a “massive” international human trafficking ring.

Now, three of her alleged captors are behind bars facing several charges, including, for the second time in Canadian history, human trafficking.

It all started Thursday afternoon when the young woman walked into a downtown Toronto Police station with her story, Staff-Sgt. Deborah Abbott said.

Police netted six suspects during a series of simultaneous raids throughout the GTA late Friday. Three men were charged.

Standing in the entrance of her ninth-floor Thornhill condominium yesterday — where about 12 hours earlier police banged on her door, broke through the locks and took her husband away in handcuffs — the wife of one of the men charged said he is a “good man” who works construction.

“I’m surprised, so surprised,” Tamara Khazarov, 31, said while her husband, Andrei Khazarov, 39, awaited his court appearance in Toronto. “My husband is a nice man. No smoking. No alcohol. Very nice.”

Speaking in broken English, the Russian woman said her husband moved to the Toronto area seven years ago — two years before her.

She said the couple was watching television while their two children — David, 4, and Maria, 2 — slept when police officers swept through their home.

The officers threw her husband’s hands behind his back before taking him away, along with their home phone, cellphone, computer and some documents, Khazarov said.

Her husband faces charges of conspiracy to commit human trafficking, trafficking in persons, receiving benefit from trafficking in persons, withholding documents, exploitation, procuring a person to become a prostitute, living off the avails of prostitution, forcible confinement, exercising control and threatening bodily harm.

Andrei Khazarov’s sister and her husband, Daniel Leshinsky, 39, who live in the unit next door with their 1-year-old son, Richard, were also arrested.

Leshinsky, as well as 35-year-old Artur Boris Tomchin, face the same charges as Khazarov.

This is only the second time charges have been laid under Canada’s anti-human trafficking legislation, which came into effect in November 2005.

In May of last year, a Montreal man and his wife were charged with trafficking a 29-year-old Ethiopian woman, who police say was enslaved as a nanny.

While the United Nations estimates between 700,000 and 2 million women are trafficked across international borders annually, generating revenues approaching $10 billion each year, it’s impossible to say how widespread the industry is in Canada because victims are reluctant to come forward, said Julie Meeks, a former RCMP human trafficking co-ordinator.

“Some of them don’t even actually recognize that they’re victims. They think that they’ve gotten themselves into it,” Meeks said. “And some of the times because they got into the country illegally,” the victims don’t go to police for fear of deportation.

The women’s passports or identity papers are often taken away and their lives — or those of their loved ones — are threatened by their captors, said Andrea Bertone, director of humantrafficking.org in Washington.

“No matter how difficult the circumstances the women are in, they often won’t leave because of these threats.”

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the migration of “young Russian women and young Eastern European women” has become a “very common” market for human traffickers to pool from, Bertone said.

SOUNDS WONDERFUL

“A lot of people have been for many, many years now answering ads about jobs for which they don’t have any information and women are trusting that recruiters are telling them the truth,” she said. “They make the job sound really wonderful. They promise them all of this money.”

Anastasia Kuzyk, of Sex Workers’ Alliance of Toronto, said human traffickers generally advertise within their own ethnic communities so as to not attract police.

“This is not about prostitution. This is about slavery,” Kuzyk said.

The three accused appeared briefly at Old City Hall courts yesterday. Their bail hearings were put over until Tuesday.

Toronto Police expect to find more victims and suspects as their investigation continues, Abbott said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-5206 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

“This is an international investigation and it will not be done. It’s not over,” Abbott said.

“It could very well be only just beginning.”

http://www.torontosun.com/News/TorontoAndGTA/2008/01/13/4770346-sun.html

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1 Comment

  1. 😦


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