Police: Club employed sex slaves
NAHA, Okinawa — Okinawan police said they have targeted a Naha strip club for holding Colombian women as virtual sex slaves.
The arrest of the manager and the American wife of the Japanese owner of a club called Naha Music comes at the same time the United States placed Japan on a human trafficking watch list of countries that have failed to stem the illegal trade in women and children.
The U.S. State Department report, released Monday, states Japan is a destination for Asian, South American and Eastern European women and children illegally brought into the country for sexual exploitation or forced labor. Okinawa police have linked the trade to Japanese organized crime and foreign “mafia” groups.
Arrested in Naha on June 11 were Frances Mary Arnold, 47, the wife of the owner of the club, and Shigehei Ichimura, 61, the club manager. Police said the owner, whom they refused to name, has little contact with the day-to-day club operations, which he left in charge of his wife.
Okinawa police say the two face charges of violating Japan’s Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law for encouraging the illegal stay of Colombian women who work at the club as strippers.
Ichimura was also charged May 30 for public indecency. Three Colombian women were also arrested. A 17-year-old was charged with indecent conduct, and a 26-year-old and 29-year-old were charged with being in the country illegally.
According to Okinawa police, Arnold hired three undocumented “exotic dancers” from Colombia who were brought into Japan by a Colombian agent in Tokyo.
The club advertises itself as a “nude strip bar” and is located on Highway 58 in Naha’s Kumoji district. Okinawan police say it caters primarily to Japanese businessmen and tourists.
An Okinawa police spokesman said the alleged trafficking operation is centered in Tokyo and run by a Colombian with Japanese and foreign organized-crime links. Typically, the women are recruited with promises of big salaries to work in Japan as entertainers. But once in Japan, they surrender their passports to the broker, who charges them huge sums of money for room and board and a “finder’s fee.”
The police spokesman said the case was the first time Okinawan police have conducted an investigation involving human trafficking.
In the Naha case, the women, who had their passports taken away by the broker, were charged about 5 million yen (about $46,000) each for airfare to Japan and room and board, a police spokesman said. And although they earned about 450,000 yen (about $4,100) a month, they typically surrendered 420,000 yen (about $3,800) to the broker and the bar, the spokesman said.
The broker also threatened to harm family members in Colombia if they ran away or resisted, the police spokesman said.