Alleged sex slaver asks to run Thai tours

An Australian hairdresser facing the nation's first charges of importing Thai sex slaves has begged the court to return his passport so he can take tourists to Thailand and Southeast Asia.

Keith William Dobie, 46, was arrested and charged on Aug 2 with taking three Thai women to Australia, imprisoning them, forcing them to work as prostitutes and - in the short period before his arrest - making $25,000 for himself - about 700,000 baht.

In addition to slavery and people trafficking, Dobie was charged with money laundering and lying to the immigration authorities about the three women.

The Australian media report this morning that Dobie went to the court to claim that the inconvenient charges of slavery have made it impossible for him to run his business of "pamper tours".

He described these as taking Australian women to Thailand and neighbouring countries for beauty treatments and shopping sprees.

Not only that, but the legal charges have ruined his hairdressing business - apparently customers don't want to be touched by a person charged with sex slavery - and he is $100,000 in debt.

If the court was bothered by the charges of enslaving Thai women, Dobie promised through his lawyer, he would stay away from Thailand, and take his pampered-to-be customers to Singapore and Malaysia only. He promised.

His lawyer Dane Thornburgh told the court Mr Dobie was willing to forego travel to Thailand "if that's what it takes . . . to try and run his life".

He also was prepared to report to Australian authorities within 24 hours of arriving in overseas destinations, he said, adding that the charges against his client were "dubious to say the least and extremely tenuous".

According to the Australian media reports, Commonwealth prosecutor Laura Manville said the bail variation was was "vigorously opposed" because Mr Dobie was considered an unacceptable flight risk.

Ms Manville said Australian authorities should not have to track Mr Dobie down if he failed to return to Australia.

"Once he's gone, he's gone," she said.

The case against Mr Dobie was strong and he faced up to 12 years in jail if convicted of people trafficking, Ms Manville said.

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