On 30 March 2010, Ms Namthip Netthip pleaded guilty to one count of conducting a business that involved sexual servitude, knowing of that sexual servitude (formerly s270.6(2) of Criminal Code) and to one count of providing false documentation (s234 of Migration Act). Ms Netthip had originally been charged with a further nine counts of people trafficking, eleven offences of intent to cause another to enter into debt bondage and ten offences under the Migration Act. While she was ultimately convicted of the migration offences, the offences relating to people trafficking and debt bondage were withdrawn.

Ms Netthip arrived in Australia in 1987 and in 1994, became an Australian citizen. Since her arrival, she had worked from time to time in brothels, either as a receptionist or as a sex worker. Between August 2005 and March 2008, Ms Netthip conducted a business through which she recruited and facilitated the placement of 11 Thai women in brothels in various Australian cities. Each woman told she had accrued a debt of $53,000 that she was required to return. A Thai facilitator made all the necessary travel arrangements for the women including arranging their passports and visas. Ms Netthip then organised their accommodation, food, work-related medical expenses and mobile telephones as well as being responsible for supervising each of the women’s placements into brothels. Once each of the women arrived in Australia on a visitor’s visa, Ms Netthip assisted them in applying for a protection visa in order to allow them to continue working for a longer period of time. She supplied each of them with false factual information about their circumstances in Thailand and gave coaching on responses to questions posed by DIAC officers.

Each of the women (except those who worked for one particular brothel) repaid their debts by transferring a proportion of their net earnings to Ms Netthip. The amount of time taken by each woman to repay the debt varied depending on the proportion of net earnings the woman wanted to pay with each deposit. It was submitted by Ms Netthip at trial that by the time she had paid all the necessary expenses for each of the women, she was only left with between $10,000-$18,000 per debt. She further submitted that the total amount she had received was between $60,000-$70,000.

On 30 July 2010, in relation to the offence of conducting a business that involved sexual servitude, Ms Netthip was sentenced to two years and three months imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of thirteen months, followed by a recognisance release order to be of good behaviour for 14 months. In relation to the migration offence, Ms Netthip was ordered to be of good behaviour for three years and six months.

Case Citation

R v Netthip [2010] NSWDC 159