An Australian Federal Police investigation commenced in August 2015 into the activities of two major telecommunication fraud ‘call centres’ in Brisbane. A Taiwanese criminal organisation responsible for operating the two call centres in luxury style residences in South Brisbane and Morningside had the centres staffed by Taiwanese slaves who were forced to work 15 hours a day, seven days a week, for no pay. The call centre operators each had to make up to 60 calls per shift which were designed to trick wealthy Chinese citizens into revealing their bank balances, pretend they were suspected of money laundering, and demand that they pay a large fine in return for not being prosecuted.
The offending was detected after one worker escaped the house in which he was being kept and was picked up by a motorist and taken to the local police station. When search warrants were executed there was a combined total of 49 workers at the two houses.
Police investigations revealed Mr Yu-Hao Huang as the ‘boss’ or ‘leader’ of the house and fraud operation—responsible for enforcing the rules of the house and maintaining order and discipline within the house. The victim that came forward to Police and the other workers in the houses were required to work seven days per week, from approximately 7:40am to 4:45pm, with a break for lunch. In the evenings, from 4:45pm to 9:30pm, they were required to learn a ‘script’ to be used when answering calls, and to train in the commission of the fraud. There were other strict rules including when they could shower, eat and sleep.
The successful prosecution resulted in:
- Yu-Hao Huang being sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for causing a person to enter into or remain in servitude, with release on recognisance after serving 548 days. Huang was the boss of the house the victim escaped from, and was in charge of the day-to-day operation and management of the house including liaising with other syndicate members and arranging deliveries. Huang was deported as soon as he was released from custody.
- Bo-Syun Chen was sentenced to 2.5 years’ imprisonment for causing a person to enter into or remain in servitude, with release on recognisance after serving 541 days. Chen was Huang’s second in command at the house. He enforced the rules of the house and maintained order and discipline. Along with Huang, Chen would verbally abuse and threaten the victim, and told him it was impossible for him to leave. Chen was deported as soon as he was released from custody.
- Wu-Nan Chen was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for supporting a criminal organisation, and three years and three months’ imprisonment for dealing in proceeds of crime worth $50,000 or more, with a non-parole period of 519 days. Between 19 March 2015 and 16 September 2015, Chen had provided more than $68,000 worth of purchases and payments for work, appliances and devices for the two houses and received an international funds transfer from Taiwan for more than $93,000 into his account, to carry out the fraud. This was the first conviction and sentence for the offence of supporting a criminal organisation in in Australia.
- Sheng-Jiun Huang was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment for negligently dealing in proceeds of crime worth $100,000 or more, and 2.5 years’ imprisonment for recklessly dealing in proceeds of crime worth $100,000 or more, with release on recognisance after serving 436 days in custody.
The prosecution of Yu-Hao Huang and Bo-Syun Chen was the first prosecution and sentence for an offence of causing a person to enter into or remain in servitude since that offence provision was amended in 2013 to broaden the conduct covered by that offence from sexual servitude only to all forms of servitude. The prosecution of Wu-Nan Chen was the first prosecution and sentence for the offence of supporting a criminal organisation.