Man charged in Toronto human trafficking investigation

The indictment charged Harvir Kumar with five counts related to human trafficking A Toronto man was charged in what police say is an ongoing investigation into human trafficking related to adverts on a popular…

Man charged in Toronto human trafficking investigation

The indictment charged Harvir Kumar with five counts related to human trafficking

A Toronto man was charged in what police say is an ongoing investigation into human trafficking related to adverts on a popular social media website.

The indictment in an Ontario Superior Court on Friday charged Harvir Kumar, 33, with five counts related to human trafficking, living off the avails of prostitution, impersonating a police officer, sexual assault and assault causing bodily harm.

According to a complaint filed by police, investigators began investigating in March after receiving a report of an “inappropriate posting” about prostitution on a website known as Backpage.com.

At least one of the alleged victims was a minor, and more arrests are expected in the case, Constable David Hopkinson said on Friday.

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“Sex trafficking and human trafficking certainly remains a serious crime that Toronto police deal with on a regular basis,” he said.

In the complaint, the police allege that two sex workers who were advertising themselves online as prostitutes were “under the control” of an unnamed third man, and “were subjected to coercive control as they were engaged in sex work.”

“Anyone who uses Backpage.com is guilty of being used by individuals to traffic persons and engage in human trafficking,” said Madeline Zibriskie, a spokesperson for Backpage.com.

Zibriskie said the website prohibits the sale of sex with minors and has worked with the Canadian authorities since 2014 to assist investigations into human trafficking.

“Backpage recognizes the serious public safety and national security concerns relating to human trafficking and is committed to ensuring human trafficking does not occur on our website,” she said.

The site has agreed to pay a fine of $30m and face a further $500m in penalties for continuing to facilitate the trade of sexual exploitation.

Backpage has been used by many sex workers, including those from Canada, to advertise their services online, but has been targeted in numerous investigations of suspected human trafficking.

In 2017, federal police in Canada and US authorities shut down the website after saying they had identified several advertisements that used real names and addresses linked to criminal activity.

The arrests of an Indian man earlier this year in a human trafficking case linked to Backpage was an “example of law enforcement fighting back against a site that helped facilitate sex trafficking,” the US department of justice said.

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