Taiwanese woman connected to B.C. bawdy houses fights to stay in Canada

A Taiwanese woman who moved to Richmond, B.C., to marry is being connected to the running of a series of bawdy-houses and recruitment of foreign nationals to work in the Lower Mainland sex trade.

Documents detail CBSA sting operation after tip pointing to Taiwanese woman Chun Tao Zhang

This chat log is part of evidence presented by the Canada Border Services Agency in federal court in relation to its investigation of an alleged bawdy house operation. (CBSA/Jason Proctor)

A Taiwanese woman who moved to Richmond, B.C., to marry is being connected to the running of a series of bawdy houses and recruitment of foreign nationals to work in the Lower Mainland sex trade.

According to documents filed in federal court, Canada Border Services Agency agents confronted Chun Tao Zhang after allegedly arranging to meet her for sex through a Chinese-language messaging service.

The 37-year-old is now fighting to stay in Canada, because immigration officials determined she breached her work permit by engaging in the sex trade and wasn't actually living with the spouse who sponsored her.

"I ... find it to be unreasonable that during the months of [the] applicant's engagement of sex-trade-related activities, the sponsor did not know anything about it, especially considering if they were in a genuine relationship and cohabiting as they indicated," read a report written by an officer with Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada's inland processing unit.

"Despite the couple's explanations, I did not find the couple provided sufficient and satisfactory explanation to this."

A contact named 'Koko'

Zhang is asking for a judicial review of the decision to exclude her from Canada.

She claims her Charter rights were breached, because the interpreter she brought with her to meet with immigration officials was not certified.

She also claims investigators failed to consider the possibility she was separated from her husband, and that, as his spouse, the law should allow her to be forgiven for failure to comply with the work permit.

In an email, her lawyer declined to speak while the case is before the courts.

According to the court documents, Zhang claimed she engaged in the sex trade "to contribute to the family and ease the sponsor's financial burden to support the family and their living cost." 

The internal documents filed as part of the case reveal details of the CBSA sting operation.

The investigation began in March 2017 when the CBSA received information from a source claiming Zhang was in a "marriage of convenience" with a business partner and that she was "operating a number of bawdy houses in the Lower Mainland."

The CBSA included this photograph as part of the evidence collected during its investigation into an alleged bawdy house operation involving Chun Tao Zhang. (CBSA/Jason Proctor)

Officers inspected the Richmond home she claimed to be sharing with her husband but noted minimal articles of female clothing, no female hair brushes or hair products and no photographs of either husband or wife.

Investigators then conducted a covert operation aimed at locating masseuses and sex trade workers in Burnaby, Vancouver and Richmond who were allegedly working for Zhang.

They set up an appointment with a woman in Richmond, where a massage was priced at $80 and manual sexual activity was priced at $130.

According to a CBSA report, a woman on a visitor visa from Taiwan opened the door "wearing an open robe and lingerie." She claimed the appointment had been arranged by a contact named 'Koko.'

Koko's number allegedly matched one associated with both Zhang and advertisements on an adult escort website.

'If it's good, I will come back'

Several months later, CBSA officers allegedly made an appointment with Zhang herself for "full service x2, meaning sexual acts to the point of ejaculation twice, for $240."

The court documents include translated transcripts of a conversation through Chinese-language messaging service WeChat in which an officer allegedly haggles over the price.

Canada Border Services Agency investigators claim they started investigating Chun Tao Zhang after a confidential source claimed she was operating bawdy houses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond. (CBSA)

"Two hundred and forty for half an hour is too expensive. Is there any discount? If it's good, I will come back," the officer wrote.

The person on the other end ultimately replies: "With sincerity, everything could be easily discussed."

According to the CBSA report, Zhang met an undercover officer at the front entrance of an apartment building in Richmond. He presented his badge and another officer emerged from a stairwell.

Zhang allegedly claimed she was just trying to make a little extra money. She allegedly said she was unaware her work permit prohibited her from "employment in business related to the sex trade, such as strip clubs, massage parlours or escort services." 

"Neither myself, nor my husband is the boss. I just earn a little bit money as a little person. So you know, it's not like what you said that I have so many girls who pay me. It's not true," Zhang is quoted as saying.

"And also, I didn't know that providing this service is illegal in Canada."

A 'breakdown in conjugality?'

In her arguments for a judicial review, Zhang claims that, although she was asked if she understood the interpreter, she was not informed that the interpreter was not qualified.

"The case at bar involves negative credibility findings, a finding of fact that the applicant disputes as factually incorrect, and at least one important incident where translation was not contemporaneous," her lawyer argued.

"The applicant proposes that procedural fairness cannot be simply discharged by asking the applicant if she 'understands the interpreter.'"

Zhang also claims that immigration officials didn't properly consider her claim to have separated from her sponsor for a period of time.

"If conjugality is required to establish cohabitation, a breakdown in cohabitation also requires a breakdown in conjugality," the argument read.

Zhang's next court appearance is in April.

None of the allegations contained in the CBSA documents have been proven in court.

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.