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Up to six migration agents have worked with the mostly Asian syndicates running prostitution rackets in Melbourne and Sydney. One of the agents involved in the sex industry in Melbourne helps to find Asian women, including those on student visas, to work as prostitutes in four different CBD apartments. Migration agents are registered by the federal government and have powers to help people get visas and deal with the Immigration Department.
They are meant to be governed by a strict code of conduct. A Melbourne resident aware of one of the rogue agents made a complaint at a city police station in November last year. The two licensed brothels linked to a human trafficking and sexual slavery inquiry are not the only government-registered and approved brothels with ties to organised crime. Earlier this month, The Age reported that at least two other licensed brothels were closely tied to Xue Di Yan, a Mulgrave woman who runs a network of illegal brothels.
Ms Yan is the subject of an ongoing Victoria Police investigation into claims that she bribed a City of Yarra official who was responsible for shutting down illegal brothels and who has since resigned. The probe into Ms Yan by Richmond detectives has uncovered two Chinese crime syndicates running dozens of illegal brothels. While this inquiry is expected to lead to the charging of some of her associates with bribery, Ms Yan continues to help run illegal brothels in Malvern, Thornbury and Preston.
In a separate development, The Age has learnt details of a number of under-age girls who were working in illegal brothels last year, including a year-old at a site in Richmond.
The girl is no longer working but the brothel remains open. State Consumer Affairs minister Michael O'Brien has told The Age the government will pass new laws requiring police to take more action against illegal brothels. His pledge puts more pressure on Chief Commissioner Simon Overland to improve the force's decentralised and often inconsistent or ineffective response to the illegal sex trade.