The Eastern Magistrates' Court on Hong Kong Island. Photo: HK Government
The Eastern Magistrates' Court on Hong Kong Island. Photo: HK Government

A lawyer representing two Filipino domestic workers allegedly caught manning pay-for-sex websites in Hong Kong’s Mid-Levels said he will challenge a video-recorded interview by police of the defendants as they were conducted in the absence of counsel.

The lawyer for the two women, 40-year-old Joan E Palpal-latoc and 47-year-old Jeanette V Gallego, made the statement at the Eastern Magistrates’ Court on Monday as magistrate Veronica Heung Shuk-han rejected bail applications for the pair. The reasons the magistrate cited were their lack of local ties, the severity of the case against them and the possibility that they would dispose of evidence, reported.

The magistrate made the ruling despite being told the Philippine Consulate was willing to provide shelter to the defendants if they were allowed bail. The prosecution opposed granting temporary freedom to the two, even though they raised their bail offer from $10,000 to $25,000 each.

The two women are facing charges of living on the earnings of a prostitute. They are due to appear in court again on July 13.

They had reportedly admitted their roles in the illicit operation in police interviews after they were arrested on May 15 at their employer’s home – which was allegedly used as a call center to operate the alleged vice ring in the Mid-Levels.

Police also arrested their elderly female employer, a 60-year-old local woman, along with the woman’s 72-year-old sister and an unidentified man. 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.

Palpal-latoc reportedly told police in the filmed interview that she knew about the operation of the websites, the company’s operation and its income from the online sex business. She said she received 0.005% from the net earnings of the company.

The prosecutor said Gallego admitted in a separate interview that she received $1,200 a month as her reward for taking part in the illicit operation, but was not a shareholder of the company.

Read: Sisters, 60 and 71, arrested for allegedly running vice ring

Read: Two Filipina maids nabbed in sex-ring raid apply for bail