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Search Search. Menu Sections. Investigations reveal abuse, exploitation and prostitution among sections of the Irish lap-dancing industry, reports Jimmy Guerin. In its few, short paragraphs, a Bulgarian lap-dancer tells of the living nightmare she endured at a Dublin venue.

She writes of exploitation, and of a constant pressure to add sex to her daily list of chores. When she said no, she was sacked. A growing Garda file on Ireland's lap-dancing industry gives the lie to the common image of harmless, good-time, exotic craic. Though sections of the industry appear to be well-run, legal and fair, gardai have evidence that other venues routinely exploit the foreign nationals who come here to become exotic dancers. The list of complaints is damning. Dancers are pressured into having sex with customers.

Underworld gangsters threaten the girls' families abroad.

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Massive "fees" are handed extra in what amounts to little more than a protection racket. In some cases, girls are kept in overcrowded houses; 40 dancers were forced to share one dance, with nine girls living in a single room. There are stories of women held as virtual prisoners. They are met at the airport when they arrive and taken to Lap venue where they will work. Sometimes they have to hand over their passports to their employer.

Their papers are only returned when their work permit expires. One dancer claimed drugs were rife at some lap-dancing venues. Girls were "so stoned they would do anything they were asked," she told us. Investigations by the Sunday Independent have revealed that Irish bureaucracy is making life easy for pimps who exploit the system.

Foreign dancers have been brought to Ireland to work on legal, short-term permits, issued after jobs were advertised with the employment agency, FAS. When no Irish women applied for the work, FAS provided a letter to allow work permits to be granted. FAS has confirmed advertisements for exotic dancers may have been placed with the agency.

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Currently, the Department of Enterprise and Employment issues week work permits to "entertainers" if FAS confirms there have been no Irish applicants for the work. In an unusual twist deed to comply with tax clearance rules, work permits are sometimes issued to clubs listing themselves as "building contractors". The Department confirmed it knew of the practice and did not consider it a problem.

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.

Enter address This field is required Up. Exploitation within the Irish lap-dancing industry is now so bad that one Dublin club is lobbying for a d agency to handle dancers. Kelly has proposed an agency, Global Model Management, as a body to oversee the pay and conditions of exotic dancers in Ireland.

In a written proposal, GMM offers to check on dancers' applications and oversee their stay in Ireland.

Client clubs of GMM would contracts guaranteeing a dancer's working hours and accommodation, as well as a minimum weekly wage of? GMM has also been in contact with FAS about setting up a training course for lap-dancers, a move that would comply with EC rules on extra opportunities. The proposal, however, has not resulted in any course, although FAS said it could not be ruled out.

The perils dancers face in other venues, however, are manifest in the reports held on Garda files, or told to the Sunday Independent by the dancers themselves. The stories tell of financial and sexual exploitation, of women forced into sex acts by unscrupulous venue owners. Foreign organised crime is implicated, but Irish owners are also involved. The Bulgarian lap-dancer who complained to gardai that she was coerced into prostitution worked for X, the Irish proprietor of a venue. In her letter, the year-old dancer tells how she was pressured towards dance.

Few times I went with clients to [a named hotel], because if I don't go I will lose my job. Also very often when I go to dance with customer in [the venue], he asks for oral sex and then shouts because other girls give him sex, not dance. It is good money, but I am not a prostitute and never wanted to be. X really didn't want me, because at that Lap only three or four girls did not want to go to hotel and X wanted all of us out. Several months have passed since the dancer's allegation, yet the venue owner has said the authorities have not investigated the complaint.

When we spoke, X denied the Bulgarian woman's claims. Though Ireland's lap-dancing industry has had the dance of uncritical media attention, other stories confirm the level of abuses. Judy not her real namean experienced English dancer who found work here through a British agency, said: "I have worked in lap-dancing clubs in both London and Hong Kong and I can tell you that some lap dancing clubs in Ireland are more sleazy, creepy and dangerous than either of those two cities.

Judy arrived in Ireland a year ago. She has now worked in a of venues and knows the scene well. In her first job she was earning up to? It seemed to be expected. Judy told the Sunday Independent that the venue's extra was aware of what was going on and did not care as long as the girls gave the club half of what they earned. Some of the dancers were making? In her first club, Judy said, many of her fellow dancers were using cocaine and ecstasy, sold by one of the girls. Drugs were taken openly in the toilets and another room. Yet in her two-month stay, Judy never Lap a raid or garda visit.

When I contacted the venue owner, he said he was unaware of any dancer offering "extras", and would sack any dancer he discovered offering sex. However I contacted several people who confirmed such services are available, and frequently used, at the venue.

Judy has now worked in several venues, and says many are little more than up-market brothels. In her last job, she said, she was sacked because she refused to do extras. The manager became paranoid and thought we were trying to set him up so he got rid of us. She added: "I felt sorry for most of the girls, they were so stoned they would do anything they were asked. Judy said that in one club, a special room for important customers was the venue for open full nudity.

The guy was in the nip also. In a separate Lap about another venue, a year-old Irish girl said she worked as a dancer after being turned down on age grounds by the first club she approached. When she complained that a customer had tried to manhandle her, the customer denied it and she was sacked.

She was paid nothing for the night's work. While some clubs do provide decent dance for their dancers, with two girls to each room and gym facilities, other venues cram the lap-dancers into overcrowded houses. In one instance, 40 extras lived in the same house and nine of the dancers had to share a single room.

They were charged?

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At some venues, the pressure to perform "extras" ranging from oral sex to hotel trips with customers is immense. Many of the girls are well paid for these "services", keeping half of the fee charged by their club, but others have found themselves working for agencies run by organised crime gangs.

Sometimes the dancers in these agencies find they are forced to pay most of their earnings to gang representatives in their eastern European homelands. They fear that if they do not make enough during their week Irish sojourn, their families may be terrorised. One gang has a representative in Dublin who collects money from the girls each week. Some of the luckier ones manage to escape by buying back their contracts.

THE investigations by the Sunday Independent discovered an east European martial arts expert who provides dancers for several Irish lap venues. The "agent" appears to be a successful immigrant in Ireland, but has a profitable sideline.

He trades in women from his native country, and through criminal links he has established, he provides dancers to venues around Ireland. The agent approaches clubs offering dancers, and then obtains letters which he uses to apply for work permits for "short-term entertainers".

Industry sources say the man has at least 20 girls working in venues at any one time.

He meets the dancers at the airport and delivers them to clubs. He does not always charge the clubs, but instead charges each dancer? On top of this, the dancers have to pay the agent in their home country between 50 and 75 per cent of the earnings they bring home. Some girls can make as much as? When the agent puts the girls on their flights home, he telephones gang members in their homeland to meet the dancers and take their cut of the money.

While he claims to look after the extras, they tell a different story, claiming they are terrorised and bullied. One girl who had not been paid Lap her club, and owed a fee to the agent, told her dances she was being held hostage in his house until she paid. Money was sent to her and the matter was resolved. Other dancers have claimed the man threatened to kill them if they attempted to stop paying his money. They believed the threats. Others have managed to pay the agent? These women have no family at home for thugs to frighten.