HCMC's abusive massage boss sentenced to 12 years

By Ngoc Le, Thanh Nien News

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Police in Ho Chi Minh City take Phan Cao Tri, owner of an illegal massage company, and his co-defendants, out of a trial where they were sentenced on September 5, 2014. Photo: Bich Ngoc Police in Ho Chi Minh City take Phan Cao Tri, owner of an illegal massage company, and his co-defendants, out of a trial where they were sentenced on September 5, 2014. Photo: Bich Ngoc

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A court in Ho Chi Minh City gave the owner of a massage company, his wife and four managers their third and final jail sentences on Friday for enslaving scores of female masseurs.
Phan Cao Tri, 41-year-old owner of Tan Hoang Phat Company, received a dozen years in prison; the company's 29-year-old director Phan Viet Hau received 10 years and Phan Quoc Cuong, 37-year-old director of a company’s branch, nine years.
They were charged with illegal detention and theft.
Tri’s wife, Phan Thi Yen, received five years for theft.
Nguyen Hoai Nhanh and Nguyen Minh Phuong, a pair of managers at one of the company's parlors, were sentenced to three years for illegal detention.
According to the indictment, Tri and Yen established the massage chain and recruited women from poor families in the Mekong Delta to work as masseuses.
The women signed legitimate labor contracts but, once employed, were forced to work from 9am to 1am every day for little money.
The masseuses were also forced to provide sexual services to their customers at their request.
Most complied because they survived on tips.
The women were prohibited from leaving their workplaces and had to stay at Tri’s home after work. They were watched over by security guards and forced to buy necessities like clothes and foods at high prices from Tri’s subordinates.
Those who were found violating the rules or disappointing clients were beaten.
Some were held in cages.
Prosecutors said women who became pregnant were beaten and forced to seek abortions.
The masseuses were allowed to take leaves twice a year, but had to “deposit” VND15 million (US$706) before leaving.
They had to pay their employers the same amount if they wanted to quit.
Tri and his accomplices were convicted of taking at least VND170 million ($8,000) from nine women who asked to quit.
The rest were rescued by police who raided the company’s main parlor on December 6, 2008.
A panel of judges reduced their sentences on Friday due to the defendants’ situation and attitudes. 
Yen has four children and has paid the court-ordered financial compensation to all of the women she enslaved.
The appeals ruling brought their term closer to their initial sentence, which was handed down in January 2011, when Tri was sentenced to 12 years and the others two to 10 years.
An appeals court reduced Tri’s sentence to five years, others to four and half years--later that year.
The Supreme Court last year annulled both verdicts citing to “serious procedural violations” and ordered police to begin a fresh investigation.

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