Thai woman jailed for Swiss prostitution ring

A Swiss court Friday sentenced a Thai woman to six and a half years behind bars for her role in a forced prostitution ring, in one of Switzerland's biggest ever human trafficking cases.

The regional Bern court ruled that the 43-year-old, whose name was not released, was guilty of human trafficking and incitement to prostitution after her network imported around 50 Thai women and men and forced them to sell sex in several Swiss cities, the ATS news agency reported.

The network, which was active between 2008 and 2011 in six Swiss cantons, was at the heart of one of the country's biggest human trafficking cases ever, according to the court.

The woman, a Thai national with a Swiss residence permit, was arrested in 2011 in Germany before being extradited to Switzerland.

When she was arrested, she was carrying documents including identity papers belonging to the victims, Swiss police said last October.

The court said Friday it believed the woman's claim that she was just a pawn in a vast network operating out of Thailand, but said that did not diminish her guilt.

In addition to heading the network of brothels, she reportedly personally ran one in Muellheim in the northern canton of Thurgau.

Police dismantled the network after a Thai woman told Bern authorities she was being held against her will and forced into prostitution at a brothel in the Swiss capital.

Seven people stand accused for their roles in the network.

The madame in the Bern brothel has already been sentenced to three and a half years in prison, ATS reported, and the ringleader's Swiss husband received a partially suspended sentence of two and a half years from the Bern court Friday.

Most of the victims came from poverty in Thailand and many knew they would work as prostitutes in Switzerland, police said, but the massive fees the network charged to get them to the country and to work in its brothels basically forced them to became sex slaves.

Each prostitute had to earn at least 60,000 Swiss francs (50,000 euros, $64,465), before being able to pay down their debt and actually pocket some of the money they made themselves, according to police.

The Bern court pointed out Friday that the ringleader had raked in nearly 1.8 million Swiss francs in less than four years.