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Organised crime bosses of old have been eclipsed by a new breed who don't need underworld muscle to run their rackets, just a steady stream of in-demand sex workers from China, Taiwan, Korea and Thailand.
One of Brisbane's big players is accused of using as many as 40 different mobile phones to run a highly profitable ring of up to eight call-girls a night. Another accused madam arrived in Australia as an internet bride but ended up allegedly running illegal prostitution via massage parlours that generated several million dollars in unexplained income. Detective Inspector Ian Robertson, of the Prostitution Enforcement Task Force, said there was little evidence now of organised crime links, sex trafficking, or violent enforcers in Queensland.
Det-Inspector Robertson said recent years had seen the emergence of entrepreneurial young women with the connections to recruit Asian sex workers who were in constant demand and "generally aware what they're doing is illegal".
He said illegal operators made "substantial" profits by dodging business overheads, tax and licence fees and running outcall services legal brothels could not. Yvette Skinner, former co-owner of Queensland's first legal brothel Purely Blue, which shut last year, said illicit operators were "inventive" and dominated the sex trade.
She said they typically rented inner-city apartments to rotate girls through in eight-hour shifts while their "call centres" netted customers via newspaper advertisements, ostensibly for legal sole operators.