National / Crime & Legal

Kyoto court hands man suspended sentence for forcing women into sex trade to clear 'debts'

Kyodo

On Tuesday, a court sentenced a 30-year-old man to 2½ years in prison, suspended for four years, for pushing women into the sex trade to pay off “debts.”

The Kyoto District Court found Yutaro Ogawa, founder and leader of the group responsible, guilty of forcing two women into the sex industry, in violation of the Employment Security Law, in March and July 2017.

“The extensive, systematic and occupational crime was highly malicious. There is no room for leniency due to the defendant’s motive for gain,” said Presiding Judge Satoshi Shibayama in handing down the ruling.

Shibayama ruled that, as ringleader, Ogawa bears heavier responsibility than his accomplices, but gave a more lenient sentence than the unsuspended three-year term sought by prosecutors, deeming the way he recruited women did not rob them of their free will.

The group, which had about 20 members, lured women in Kyoto into a bar with which the group had connections and charged them excessive bills for drinks which they could not pay, before pushing them into the sex trade to clear their “debts.”

The practice — which ensnared hundreds of women, including university students — is believed to have pulled in more than ¥100 million since July 2012.

The group had a training manual for recruiters, which included how to approach women on the street and how to decide which part of the sex trade to introduce them to.

Several other group members have already been found guilty for their roles, including a man who replaced Ogawa as leader at the end of 2017.