A PROSTITUTION racket is running illegal brothels out of at least three inner-city hotels under the nose of a police taskforce set up to crack down on the multi-million-dollar unlicensed sex industry.
A Weekly investigation has revealed that at least 19 women work for a Chinese syndicate operating out of hotel rooms at Southbank's Crown Metropol, the Hotel Grand Chancellor on Lonsdale Street and West Melbourne's Flagstaff City motel. The mobile brothel advertises through Sweetybabe.net and has started promoting its services interstate.
All three hotels have denied any knowledge of the syndicate, saying they have a "zero tolerance policy" on illegal activity.
The Victoria Police sex industry co-ordination unit, formed in February to crack down on illegal brothels with links to human trafficking, child sex work, tax evasion, organised crime and government corruption, said it was not investigating the "mobile brothel".
The taskforce has three active investigations into illegal brothels in Melbourne. Inspector Trevor Cornwill, who headed the taskforce until last week, said it had no knowledge of the mobile syndicate that has been operating out of the 658-room Crown Metropol, less than a kilometre from Melbourne's police headquarters.
"We are investigating one illegal brothel in Melbourne CBD based at a fixed address," he said. "We haven't looked at any hotels." Mr Cornwill also confirmed Sweetybabe.net was not under investigation.
Crown spokesman Gary O'Neill said they had a "strictly enforced" policy prohibiting prostitution.
Hotel Grand Chancellor general manager Haydn Grant said: "It would be highly unusual for this to happen [but] ultimately it is going to be extremely difficult for the hotel to intervene when it's done in such a covert way."
Flagstaff City spokesman Tony Zhang said staff asked unfamiliar guests to present their room key.
Sweetybabe rates vary from $350 for an hour to $1600 for a night.