Newham madam who ran brothels across London including one in Poplar must pay back £300,000

Yanping Zhu. Pic: Crown Prosecution Service

Yanping Zhu. Pic: Crown Prosecution Service - Credit: Archant

A Newham brothel madam who controlled a UK-wide sex worker empire from “call centres” has been ordered to give up more than £300,000 she earned from her crimes.

Yanping Zhu, from Silvertown, managed brothels at addresses in Saltwell Street, Poplar, Earl’s Court, Clapham, Liverpool and Southampton.

In total detective’s uncovered 26 brothels housing 40 prostitutes, which Zhu ran between April 2016 and October 2017.

She used dozens of phones and advertised women online. She disguised her illicit and “sophisticated” operation, which targeted men who wanted to exploit south-east Asian women for sex, as a company specialising in wedding and party dresses.

Detectives found phones “ringing and pinging” with messages from men when they first raided a New Cross flat in 2016.

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The Chinese national threw 22 phones out of the window when police swooped, a court heard.

Almost 50 were eventually recovered from the property with one containing 3,000 messages enquiring about sex services, which included French kissing for £10.

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After the raid, and while on bail, Zhu set up another call centre in Newham.

In June last year the flat in Hoola East buildings, Docklands, was raided and detectives found dozens more phones plus online ad-verts featuring naked women and a price list of sexual services ranging from £70 and £110.

She denied knowledge of the prostitution ring despite a mobile receiving “customer enquiries” being found in her pocket, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

Zhu was jailed for two years after admitting three counts of controlling prostitution for gain, three weeks into her trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court in February.

Now, after a CPS investigation into her assets, she has been ordered to pay £303,700 under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The confiscation hearing at Snaresbrook this month heard she amassed hundreds of thousands of pounds of jewellery, cash, and equity in a home in Heron Place, Silvertown.

Senior CPS prosecutor Elaine Cousins said: “Zhu ran a sophisticated network of brothels across the country. She used websites for advertising and set up what was in effect a call centre where potential customers could make enquiries about sexual services. When police raided one call centre in New Cross, Zhu simply started another in Newham.

“She used a clothing business as a front and initially denied any knowledge of the crime, even when a phone was found in her pocket. It is illegal to control prostitution. This order means Zhu will not be able to benefit from the profits of her criminal activity.”

Zhu has three months to settle the confiscation order or will face a further two years in prison.

Operation Miami, a joint council and police initiative to tackle illegal brothels, was set up in Newham.

Since 2013 the borough has been using planning regulations to deal with residential homes used as brothels.

A council spokeswoman said 141 had been closed in the borough in that time.

She added: “The failure to apply for planning permission to change a property from residential to commercial use has proved to be an effective way of dealing with brothels.

“Working with the police we investigate properties quickly, flexibly and without a warrant. If it is being used illegally we can take action against all interested parties.”

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