One half of a Melbourne couple who allegedly kept a human slave for almost a year has faced court from her car after a concerned healthcare provider contacted police.
Chee Kit Chong, 44, and Angie Yeh Ling Liaw, 29, appeared before Melbourne Magistrate Court on Thursday charged with slavery-related offences.
Police allege the married couple kept a woman in domestic servitude at their Point Cook home between January-October in 2022.
During that time, the pair allegedly exercised coercive control over the woman, subjected her to physical assaults, and controlled her movements.
The court heard the woman was a vulnerable person at the time of the offences, and was now residing in the country on “relevant visas.”
Magistrate Andrew McKenna said a number of witnesses would likely be required to give evidence.
“There are going to be witnesses from perhaps the places where the complainant visited, attended, or reported things,” Mr McKenna said.
“That’s in the hospital – some medical centre out in the western suburbs, or some other entities she encountered.”
The pair were not required in court and appeared via AVL, with Liaw seen attending from her car.
Lawyer Mr Lu agreed for the matter to be adjourned until later this year as he negotiated his representation of the pair.
Mr Lu only represented Liaw and told the court he was considering representing her husband.
Australian Federal Police made the alarming discovery after a healthcare report raised alarm bells about possible human trafficking.
Following an investigation, the AFP executed search warrants at a Point Cook residence on October 27, 2022.
The 44-year-old man was arrested at the home the following month.
He was charged with possessing a slave and using coercion and threats to cause another person to enter into servitude.
In April, he was slapped with a further charge of exercising control over a slave.
The 29-year-old woman was arrested that same month and was charged by summons with the same three offences.
The pair were scheduled to front Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday but their appearance was administratively adjourned to a later date.
If convicted, they face a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.
The pair were granted bail to reappear before the same court on June 19.
AFP superintendent Simone Butcher said the AFP actively engaged in education for first responders, healthcare professionals, and the community to help them recognise the indicators of human trafficking and slavery.
“Everyone can play a role in stopping human trafficking. We encourage anyone who suspects human trafficking or sees something suspicious to report it,” she said.
“Without the assistance of the community – in this case healthcare professionals – victims may go undetected and we would not be able to provide victims the help and support they need.”
Anyone who is concerned about possible human trafficking can make a report to the AFP by calling 131AFP (131 237).