Sunday 20 October 2019

Sex trade boom as escort agency targets Europe

Sex trade booming
Sex trade booming

Jim Cusack

The company that operates Ireland's biggest sex-worker website has moved its headquarters to Spain and is expanding its business across Europe, the Sunday Independent has learned.

The owners of Escorts Ireland, previously operated by E Designers Ltd based in London to avoid prosecution from profiting from prostitution here, are now operating a number of similar websites across Europe.

Escorts Ireland chief executive Audrey Campbell, who is originally from Co Wicklow, confirmed the company has moved to Spain because of its "more accepting" attitude to "adult" businesses. Spain is also understood to be more tax efficient than the UK.

Escorts Ireland, which now trades as Lazarus Trading SL, would not divulge which markets it is expanding into, but said it now employs 30 full-time multi-lingual staff at its new headquarters. They also declined to divulge the exact location of its new HQ.

Ms Campbell set up the company with her partner Peter McCormick, an ex-RUC reserve constable who has a conviction for brothel-keeping in Dublin in the 1990s. McCormick's son Mark was imprisoned for 16 months for brothel-keeping in 2010.

Speaking about the expanded new operation, Ms Campbell told the Sunday Independent: "The company operates a number of non-English language websites outside of the adult entertainment market. Spain offers a number of advantages, including an optimal legal and taxation framework, and access to a highly skilled and multi-lingual workforce that will enable the company to reach its full potential, while maintaining the standards and social responsibility values that our clients are accustomed to.

"Spain is a country which is very accepting of companies with interests in the adult entertainment industry and offers an excellent standard of living. Indeed the current workforce now includes a number of staff who previously worked for E Designers Ltd in the UK."

The expansion of Escorts Ireland follows a global trend which has seen the oldest profession in the world move online.

The Economist magazine last month published an analysis of the international sex trade which showed sex workers are increasingly using the web to defy national anti-prostitution laws. Its study showed "traditional forms of prostitution" such as sex clubs are struggling to survive due to the increase in online operations, particularly by independent sex workers who are increasingly given more control over their operations.

The Economist pointed out that the number of licensed sex clubs in Holland has fallen by more than 50pc in the past four years, due almost entirely to the growth of sex workers advertising online.

The magazine also mentions Ireland, where advertising sexual services has been banned since 1994. The article quotes the Queen's University sociologist Dr Graham Ellison as saying the Irish ban "has achieved almost nothing . . . simply moved [it] to other jurisdictions".

In its analysis of the online sex trade, The Economist observed: "Now specialist websites and apps are allowing information to flow between buyer and seller, making it easier to strike mutually satisfactory deals. The sex trade is becoming easier to enter and safer to work in: prostitutes can warn each other about violent clients, and do background and health checks before taking a booking. Personal web pages allow them to advertise and arrange meetings online."

Earlier this month, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she is considering laws that would criminalise the buying of sex following reports that asylum seekers as young as 18 are working as prostitutes. It is currently illegal in Ireland to work as a prostitute, but not to purchase sex.

Sunday Independent

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