‘Raided massage shops just reopen’
THE city's former top cop says the dozens of illegal brothels busted in an unprecedented blitz six years ago have reopened and are "flourishing".
Ex-Queensland Police Superintendent Jim Keogh, who retired in 2017 after 37 years in the force, said a crackdown of 51 parlours from Coolangatta to Southport in 2013-2014 uncovered a swathe of illegal activity, including links to the Asian underworld.
He found most of the women working as "masseuses" were conducting sex acts for money, living inside the parlours, were not health checked and were paid little for their work.
It was also discovered that some women were being ruled by criminal Asian motorcycle gangs, working to pay off debts owed by their parents.
"There were certainly links to Asian connections of motorcycle gangs," Mr Keogh said.
"When we did searches we found a single entity operated a number of (the massage parlours).
"A lot of the business and business arrangements were done in Asia.
"The majority of people we found (working) there had student visas for the purpose of education. We (also) saw evidence they were residing in their premises."
A cafe owner at the time (2014) said the girls played guitar and sang songs about "special deals" to tempt customers into the parlours.
The manager of the city's only legal 24-hour brothel this week told the Bulletin that sex trafficking and illegal prostitution was happening "everywhere" on the Gold Coast.
Pentagon Grand madam Suzanne Pfeiffer said recent police raids on massage shops had sparked an upswing in girls with no visas and unable to speak English applying for work. Often they were accompanied by minders" who refused to let them be interviewed alone.
Mr Keogh said he believed most of those which were shut down during the raids he headed had reopened.
Asked if he believed women working illegally in massage shops today were doing it to pay off debts back at home, Mr Keogh said: "Undoubtedly."
"It would appear (some of the illegal massage parlours) had closed and reopened, yes.
"If anything the industry has grown. It's certainly not a good look for arguably the tourism capital of Australia to be littered with massage parlours which have pretty much opened up every couple of kilometres.
"There was certainly evidence they had provided, which the Bulletin story (today) indicated, that they have minders.
"They obviously found a glitch in the system which not only found them able to operate but to flourish."
During the past year a taskforce was set up to shut down illegal brothels called Operation Romeo Bailie.
Four Gold Coast massage businesses have been accused of offering prostitution services and issued with infringement notices.
Mr Keogh said the return of illegal massage parlours was "glaringly obvious and it was frustrating to see them flourish".
Mr Keogh praised the recent taskforce.
"It's encouraging to see the police are taking action in relation to the parlours to establish if they are legitimate or otherwise," he said.