For 18 months a teenage girl was kept as a sex slave and her body sold a sickening 1000 times. She was a prisoner to the person who should've cared for her most - her mother. The Herald has followed the court proceedings and can today reveal details of one of New Zealand's most horrific abuse cases and the country's third-ever conviction for dealing in slaves.

Inside an Auckland home during early 2015 a mother demands her 14-year-old daughter start working as a prostitute or their family will starve.

She says it will only be for a month but the daughter refuses to sell her body.

However, the teen had no choice.

Kasmeer Lata, the teen's mother, was sentenced today in the High Court at Auckland. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Kasmeer Lata, the teen's mother, was sentenced today in the High Court at Auckland. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Today, the Herald was there when her mother, Kasmeer Lata, was jailed for six years and 11 months.

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She is only New Zealand's third conviction for dealing in slaves.

It is also the first case of its kind in New Zealand under a specific subsection of the Crimes Act, Crown prosecutor Natalie Walker told the court. She also called for Lata's offending to be denounced in the most explicit terms.

The first time the teen was sold was on her 15th birthday.

Over the next year and a half the teen was kept as a prisoner inside a Papatoetoe home and sold as a sex slave to men an estimated 1000 times.

She had moved to New Zealand from Fiji and began living in Whangarei with her 36-year-old mum and brothers just a year before her ordeal began.

However, after their visitor visas expired they began living as illegal immigrants, court documents released to the Herald stated.

As illegals and unable to work or enrol in school the family quickly fell on hard times.

An Auckland teenager was kept as a slave by her mum and sold a sickening 1000 times for sex.

To pay for food and to "start a business" Lata began setting about to sell her daughter's body.

An advertisement on the website Craigslist was first posted, which offered the teen for sexual services, but Lata lied about her daughter's age.

An advert was then placed in the classified section of the New Zealand Herald, again with a fabricated age.

Then, painfully, on her 15th birthday Lata arranged for her daughter to meet the first client - a man in his 50s known only as "David".

The daughter refused, but her mum "coached her" on how to have sex.

An hour passed before David left, paying the mother $200.

He would then return once every two weeks.

Encouraged by the financial gain, Lata made more arrangements for men to use her daughter's body.

However, she was concerned about the neighbours' growing suspicious.

She ensured the blinds were always closed and didn't allow her daughter outside on weekdays.

But the neighbours did suspect something sinister and reported to Auckland Council that the house was being used as a brothel.

As business increased, Lata made further efforts to sell her daughter and arranged for an advertisement and photo shoot with the online escort agency, New Zealand Girls.

Naked photos of her daughter covered in oil were taken and uploaded to the internet - the ad stated she was 20 years old and her name was "Tipsy".

More men began to request the teen and Lata and her partner Avneensh Sehgal began taking her to motels around Auckland for as many as five "appointments" per day, each costing up to $200 per hour.

Sehgal pleaded guilty to dealing in underage people for sexual exploitation and receiving earnings from underage sexual exploitation, just minutes after Lata was sentenced.

The Herald can also reveal, Sehgal was arrested at Auckland International Airport last night while attempting to board a plane to India.

Sources told the Herald Sehgal was stopped with a large bag and cash. He told border security and police he was travelling to Delhi to tend to his ill father.

Sehgal was due to go to trial next week and will now be remanded in custody until his sentencing next month.

The teen's imprisonment continued and in mid-2015 she discovered she was pregnant, but her mum told her she had to keep working to pay for an abortion, which she later had.

Courageously, in November 2016, the teen went to police and told officers of her horror.

During the 18 months she was kept as a sex slave it is estimated she was abused on 1000 occasions, while it is thought her mother collected about $100,000, keeping half.

The teen said she now suffers from regular pain as a result of her trauma, has mental health issues and fears deportation.

"I have to make up lies about four years of my life and why I live on my own without my parents' support," she said in her victim impact statement.

"I see men differently now, I think they always want something from me and that is why they are talking to me.

"I always wanted my mum to be a normal person ... I wonder what I did to deserve my mum? All I wanted was your love as a child, teenager, and your girl."

Justice Matthew Muir said Lata's offending has caused "long-lasting, if not irreparable damage to her daughter" as she "effectively pimped her out".

He imposed a minimum period of imprisonment of three years and five months and also offered a "strong message to all parents".

"New Zealand's courts will not [tolerate] the prostitution of children," he said.

"Children are entitled to the love and care of their parents - not to be farmed out for financial gain."

A report into Lata's state of mind recorded that she displayed a "manner that was nonchalant and showed little insight" into her offending.

Defence counsel Karl Trotter said: "Ms Lata has come to the realisation that she may well be the most despised woman in New Zealand, that will be her burden."

The story of New Zealand's first slave-dealing conviction

Dealing in slaves carries a maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment.

Prior to the charge being written into the Crimes Act 1961, New Zealand relied on the United Kingdom's Slave Trade Act of 1824.

Before Lata, only two others had been convicted over dealing in slaves under New Zealand law.

The first was in 1991 and another in 1998.

The teen was kept sold as a sex slave to men an estimated 1000 times. Photo / 123RF
The teen was kept sold as a sex slave to men an estimated 1000 times. Photo / 123RF

When sentencing Lata, Justice Muir relied on the 1991 case and several others from the UK to help him reach a judgment - given the lack of New Zealand case law.

However, the Crown has attempted to prosecute seven others for dealing in slaves, Ministry of Justice statistics released to the Herald under the Official Information Act reveal.

Two people were charged in 1995, three in 2000, one in 2008, and one in 2009 but none of the charges were proved.

Back in 1991, a then 42-year-old Thai national became the first person convicted of slave trading.

Prasert Decha-Iamsakun was found guilty on trial before a judge and jury in the High Court at Auckland on two charges of dealing in slaves.

He was sentenced to a five-year prison term and ordered to be deported thereafter. He later appealed against the convictions and the prison sentence but had the appeal dismissed, Court of Appeal documents released to the Herald show.

On or about January 26, 1991 he had offered to sell a then 26-year-old woman as a slave to David Albert Stott for $7000.

Then on or about March 15 that year he sold the woman to Shamus Duncan in a motel room for $3000.

However, Stott had reported the offer to authorities and, unbeknownst to Decha-Iamsakun, Duncan was an undercover cop.

How the <i>Herald</i> reported Prasert Decha-Iamsakun's appeal to the Court of Appeal. Image / Herald Archives
How the Herald reported Prasert Decha-Iamsakun's appeal to the Court of Appeal. Image / Herald Archives

The young woman had come to New Zealand under arrangements made by Decha-Iamsakun and travelled with a man associated with Decha-Iamsakun, under the pretence that she was married to that man.

She lived for about five weeks in an Auckland motel with other Thai women and Decha-Iamsakun, first working in a massage parlour and then in a go-go bar. Most of her pay would go to Decha-Iamsakun.

Crown evidence also suggested Decha-Iamsakun carried on the business of bringing Thai girls to New Zealand and living off their earnings.

From the motel the woman moved to live successively in two houses, one owned or occupied by the proprietor of the bar, the other by an employee in the bar.

Later, Decha-Iamsakun offered to sell the woman as a slave to Stott, who told the court Decha-Iamsakun said, "she was mine to do whatever I liked with her".

Stott gave immigration authorities information about the meeting and the police sting was set up.

Duncan - who purported to be a buyer from Hamilton - told the court during his evidence-in-chief that Decha-Iamsakun had told him he had paid for the woman to come to New Zealand.

"He told me 'I then take them and look look look, and when they get no job I take them to a papa'. He said 'they work then'. He told me he brings the girls over and when he has sold them he uses the money [to] bring more over," the officer said of his meeting with Decha-Iamsakun.

Duncan said if the woman, who had "no family, no sisters, nobody here, she has nowhere to go", fled back to Thailand then Decha-Iamsakun would find him a new slave.

When dismissing Decha-Iamsakun's appeal, the Court of Appeal ruled the sentencing judge had no precedent to guide him but considered the case as bad as rape and "had regard to the importance of deterring others who might be minded to exploit young Asian women in the same way".