Mr Kam Tin Ho and Mr Ho Kam Ho were both involved in a sophisticated and well-organised scheme, run from Bangkok, Sydney and Melbourne, which brought Thai women to Australia to work in licensed brothels. Mr Kam Tin Ho was the scheme’s principal in Melbourne and Mr Ho Kam Ho was involved in its Melbourne operation. In 2009 both men were convicted of slavery offences under s 270.3(1) of the Criminal Code.
The women entered Australia on three-month tourist or business visas which were issued on the basis of falsely created cover stories. They were chaperoned into Australia and upon arrival, found their passports confiscated and their freedom denied. They were subjected to constant supervision and were restricted to their workplace and residence. They were forced to work 6 days per week and service between 650-750 clients in order to repay debts of $81,000 to $94,000 each.
The scheme attempted to keep the women working in Australia for as long as possible without breaching their visa requirements and as such, upon imminent expiry of their temporary visas, the women applied for refugee protection visas based on false information given to immigration officials. The women participated voluntarily in this part of the scheme.
Despite the fact that each of the women entered Australia illegally with the knowledge that they would be working in the sex industry, the Court found that their treatment and the level of control exercised over them, including being variously traded, possessed and used as items of property, had exploited their vulnerabilities and reduced them to the condition of slavery.
After a 10-week trial, Mr Kam Tin Ho was found guilty on ten of the fourteen counts he was charged with, including five counts of intentionally possessing a slave (s270.3(1) of Criminal Code); one count of intentionally exercising over a slave a power attaching to the right of ownership (s270.3(1) of Criminal Code); and four counts of being party to two non-reportable cash transactions contrary to the Financial Transaction Reports Act 1988 (Cth). Mr Ho Kam Ho on the other hand was only found guilty of five of the eleven charges, being four counts of intentionally possessing a slave (s270.3(1) of Criminal Code) and one count of being party to two non-reportable cash transactions contrary to the Financial Transaction Reports Act 1988 (Cth).
Mr Kam Tin Ho was sentenced to a total of fourteen years imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of eleven years. Mr Ho Kam Ho was sentenced to a reduced total of ten years imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of seven years for his slightly lesser role in the scheme.
In 2011, Mr Kam Tin Ho and Mr Ho Kam Ho each appealed their convictions and sentences. Both appeals in relation to convictions were rejected, however both appeals in relation to sentencing were upheld. Mr Kam Tin Ho was re-sentenced to a total of eight years and three months imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of five years. Mr Ho Kam Ho was re-sentenced to five years and nine months imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of three years.
A special leave application was made to the High Court of Australia in 2012 in relation to the convictions of both men. Both Gummow J and Crennan J found the Court of Appeal had made no errors of law and therefore upheld its decision to dismiss the appeals.