Twenty Filipina women who had been trafficked as part of a prostitution ring were rescued from a hotel in Sabah, Malaysia, during the early hours of Friday. Immigration officers also made a surprise seizure of over 13 million ringgit (US$3.16 million) in cash.

Guang Ming Daily (Malaysia) reported over the weekend that a raid was carried out at a hotel in downtown Kota Kinabalu following a tip-off from three Filipina victims who said they were being forced to provide prostitution services at the location.

Officers found those three women in the hotel spa, while another 17 Filipina women were discovered in various rooms of the hotel. Two Malaysian men and one Filipino – all three alleged to be middlemen for the syndicate – were arrested.

According to the director-general of Malaysian Immigration, Mustafar Ali, about 11.9 million ringgit (US$2.89 million) was found in one hotel room, while another 1.17 million ringgit (US$285,000) was seized from the apartment, next door, of one of the arrested suspects.

Ali said his department was investigating the case under the country’s Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling Acts, and that it would attempt to trace the source of the seized cash.