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Liu kept brothel in Nukualofa

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga. April 26, 2011) - A Chinese national Liu Lirong (45), residing in Nuku΄alofa, was found guilty on seven charges of trafficking persons into Tonga, keeping a brothel and trading in prostitution, ruled Justice Robert Shuster today.

He told the Supreme Court in Nuku΄alofa that he had no hesitation in finding Liu guilty, and set her sentencing for May 27.

In Tonga, the maximum penalty for trafficking persons is an imprisonment term not exceeding 25 years.

In the meantime Liu was released on bail until her sentencing, on the condition she cooperates with her counsel Laki Niu in getting a pre-sentence report from the probation office as well as a medical report on her health.

Justice Shuster in presenting a written judgment of 9,000 words told the convicted woman, that he found the evidence by victim Chun Juan Du credible. He said in his findings, it was a fact that Chun Juan Du had her passport taken by Liu preventing her to leave Tonga.

"I also find it a fact that Liu used her as a prostitute on more than one occasion. And I believed her because she was a credible witness."

Justice Shuster also believed the evidence by the second victim Hong Yu Yang who said she did not come to Tonga to become a prostitute but she came to be a waitress at Liu’s restaurant. Liu also took and kept her passport.

"I find you kept her as a slave and she was exploited for prostitution," he said. "I believe the evidence of these two witnesses over your evidence and your witnesses. You provided a classic textbook evidence of enslavement and trafficking of people for prostitution indicated by the United Nations and other world agencies. And I had no hesitation in finding you guilty on all counts."

Justice Shuster said this was the first case of this kind in Tonga and he set out a background on International Law and referred to studies conducted by competent agencies on behalf of the United Nations, in regards to trafficking people.

Trafficking involves transporting people from the area they usually live and work in and forcing them to work against their will by using threats, violence, deception and coercion, he said.

He said that trafficking involved most countries and affected families in every continent.

The United Nations said 9.5 million people at any one time are being trafficked and most trafficking relates to sexual exploitation, he said.

The case was first heard in the Nuku΄alofa Supreme Court in January and completed on February 4 of this year.

The complainants are two Chinese women, Chun Juan Du and Hong Yu Yang who in their evidence told the court that Liu had forced them into prostitution in Tongatapu in 2009.

Liu who pleaded not guilty to all counts in her evidence strongly denied the prostitution claimed by the two victims. The end of the case brought tears to the two victims, who were happy with the judgment.

The Crown prosecutor was Sione Sisifa.

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