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HMA v Qin Huang, Xiao Min & Guolei Huang


Jun 25, 2024

At the High Court in Glasgow, Lady Poole imprisoned Qin Huang for 8 years and Xiao Min for 8 years 6 months after the pair pled guilty to human trafficking. Guolei Huang received 4 years 3 months having pled guilty to brothel keeping. Charges against all 3 were aggravated by a connection to serious organised crime.

On sentencing, Lady Poole said:

“Qin Huang and Xiao Min, on 28 May 2024 you plead guilty at the High Court in Glasgow to a charge of human trafficking.  Guolei Huang, you plead guilty to a charge of brothel keeping.  These offences were aggravated by a connection with serious organised crime.

There was a joint investigation between the police and the Home Office which led to the prosecution against you.  The investigation uncovered a sophisticated criminal network involved in prostitution.  East Asian females were harboured and trafficked to work as prostitutes.  The network included the use of six different rented addresses in Glasgow, and one in Edinburgh, for the provision of sexual services.  Payments were made to advertise prostitutes on various adult websites, which provided mobile phone contact numbers.  Clients who telephoned were directed to different addresses to obtain sexual services for payment.  A network of this nature would have generated significant financial proceeds.  

An operation of this type and scale necessarily involves the work of a number of people.  Individuals carry out different roles, but all contribute to enabling the network.  Not all of those involved are being sentenced in this court.  The Crown has not suggested that any of the three who appear before me are the ultimate leader of this operation.  Nevertheless, your roles were important in facilitating prostitution in Scotland. 

You Qin Huang were involved in the daily management of prostitution in the Glasgow area.  You managed properties used by prostitutes to provide sexual services to clients, including equipping and setting premises up.  You made arrangements for the women providing sexual services at the brothels to be trafficked between cities including Glasgow and London. You were involved in the advertisement of sexual services.  You took calls from clients and arranged for the provision of sexual services to them at addresses to which you directed them.

You Xiao Min lived in England, but you had a supervisory role in the network as it operated in Scotland.  You supervised the renting of several properties in Glasgow and Edinburgh for use as brothels. These brothels would then be used by Asian women who were being transported throughout the United Kingdom to provide sexual services in exchange for money. You presented false documents to landlords to secure these properties, including using false aliases.  You supervised the advertising of the sexual services being offered, and had login details to manage and update adverts on websites. You were involved in making arrangements for women to attend the properties you had rented to engage in sexual activity with men in exchange for money.

You Guolei Huang performed the role of 'minder' to prostitutes within the properties being used as brothels.  You met women who were to work in brothels, and escorted them to the addresses where sexual services would be provided.  You were present while the women provided sexual services to clients, and ‘looked after’ them.  You also looked after properties being used as brothels. 

None of the three of you have any previous convictions in Scotland, and none of you have been imprisoned before.  I ordered criminal justice social work reports in respect of each of you.  I have taken those into account, as well as the pleas in mitigation on your behalf.  In selecting appropriate sentences, I have carefully considered written submissions and other material provided to the court, as well all mitigatory factors advanced by those representing you. 

As has been observed by colleagues in other cases, brothel keeping and trafficking women for prostitution involves the deliberate degrading of fellow human beings. Prostitution is a de-humanising experience because women often end up being deprived of the ability to act in their own interests, and being valued not as people but as a potential source of profit.

It is rarely easy for a person who is exploited in this way to complain about their treatment or to report the matter to the authorities, particularly when they are in an unfamiliar country.  Language difficulties, and sometimes immigration issues, prevent them from communicating with other people. When such offences do come to light, it is the practice of the courts to impose substantial sentences in order to punish the offender in a manner which adequately reflects the gravity of these crimes, to deter others from regarding the exploitation of others as a potential money-making opportunity, and to protect the vulnerable from being exploited in this way.

Your participation played an important and significant role in the operation of the criminal network in Scotland and in allowing women to be exploited, and the sentences I impose reflect that.  

You Qin Huang and you Xiao Min, have plead guilty to an offence of human trafficking.  This is regarded as an offence of such gravity that Parliament has specified a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.  You have plead guilty to being involved in this crime in a time period spanning of approximately 2 ¾ years. 

Qin Huang, you are 31 years old.  You were born in China and now live in Glasgow.  You entered the country on a student visa in about 2010.  You are a failed asylum seeker with outstanding appeals with the Home Office.  You claim benefits of £140 a week.  Given the gravity of your crime, and although you have not been imprisoned before, the only appropriate sentence is one of imprisonment.  I sentence you to a term of imprisonment of 8 years, discounted from 10 years for your guilty plea, backdated to 28 May 2024 when you were first remanded in custody.  Although your guilty plea was not formally tendered until the morning your trial was due to start, the Crown accepts that by mid-March 2024 you had offered a plea of guilty to human trafficking.  That was some time after the initial preliminary hearing in this case, but it helped to avoid a complex trial set down for 8 weeks having to proceed, and so a 20% discount is appropriate. 

Xiao Min, you also were born in China.  You are 38 years old.  It is believed you entered this country illegally.  You have applied for leave to remain.  You live in England.  You have no formal employment.  You tendered a plea of guilty to charge 1 on 28 May 2024, at a continued preliminary hearing on the day the trial was due to start.  You had indicated that you would plead guilty about a week before that, and the Crown acknowledged your plea had utilitarian value.  I apply a discount to your sentence of 15%.  I sentence you to a term of imprisonment of 8 years and 6 months, reduced from a headline of 10 years, backdated to 28 May 2024 when you were first remanded in custody.

Guolei Huang, you have plead guilty to a different offence, of keeping, managing and assisting in the management of brothels, for which the maximum custodial sentence is 7 years.  You were involved in assisting with managing three different premises in Glasgow used as brothels, over an extensive period of over a year and two months.  You were born in China and are 35 years old.  You entered the UK in 2018, and in October 2020 were served immigration papers as being an illegal entrant.  You spent about a week in custody in 2021 after first appearing on petition before you were bailed.  You then disappeared for a time, until you were arrested in a brothel in Liverpool, and you have been remanded in custody since 13 March 2023.  I sentence you to a term of 4 years 3 months imprisonment, which includes a discount of 15% from a headline of 5 years.  Your sentence is backdated to 27 February 2023 to give you credit for time you have spent in custody already. 

In all three of these sentences, the aggravations in respect of connections with serious organised crime have been taken into account by me in selecting the appropriate sentence for the offences themselves. For that reason I have not increased the sentences further on account of the aggravations.

Finally, the Crown has served applications for serious crime prevention orders on you.  Consideration of those applications will be continued to 9.30am on Friday 19 July 2024 at the High Court in Edinburgh, with any answers on behalf of the accused to be lodged within 21 days.”

25 June 2024