The Eastern Magistrates' Court. Photo: HK Government
The Eastern Magistrates' Court. Photo: HK Government

Two Filipina maids arrested for allegedly assisting the operation of an online vice ring appeared in Eastern Magistrates’ Court on Monday to apply for bail.

The defendants – Joan E. Palpal-latoc, 40, and Jeanette V. Gallego, 47 – have been charged with “living on the earnings of prostitution of others” for the nine years from 2009 to 2018. They were arrested at a sex-ring call-center set up in an upscale apartment in Mid-Levels on Hong Kong Island, reported.

The online prostitution ring was allegedly run by their elderly female employer, a 60-year-old local woman surnamed Wong, along with Wong’s 72-year-old sister and a man in a flat on the 43rd floor of Tavistock II, a residential tower on Tregunter Path.

The three local Chinese suspects were allowed to post bail while the two maids were taken into custody and formally charged in court.

Magistrate Peter Law ordered the two Filipinas to apply for bail, after asking the prosecution why they were not given temporary liberty like the other accused.

The prosecutor said it was due to the Filipinas’ lack of local ties, the seriousness of their offense and the high risk they could flee.

But on the date set for the bail application, the maid’s lawyer could not be in court until around 1pm. That forced the magistrate to adjourn the bail hearing till June 4.

The case itself will be heard again on July 13, after prosecutors said it would take two months to go through computer hard drives and phone records.

The two defendants were returned to police custody pending their bail application.

Police raided the apartment used as a call center to operate the alleged vice ring on May 15. The service allegedly targeted foreign visitors to Hong Kong via a website that carried pictures of women who could provide high-quality escort services for a charge of HK$6,000 to HK$7,000 (US$764 to $891) per hour.

It appears to have been lucrative – local papers have said the police teams confiscated HK$10 million in cash, plus a car.

The two Filipinas were allegedly found at work when police raided the flat. They said Papal-latoc arranged the special services while Gallego received commissions of 0.4% per transaction.

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