Recall Flirt, the sex ad rag that printed jingoist rants alongside pictures of sylphs for sale. The couple running the business have been detained on suspicion of procuring, along with 35 call center operators. Apparently Flirt served as a sort of sex exchange: a potential customer would have to call a Flirt number and reference the advertisement he would like to act on. The operator would then put him through to the sex worker, or more likely her pimp or madam.
One source claims Flirt skimmed 30% off each “order.” Lenta.ru quotes a policeman saying one issue “brought in” – in revenues, I suppose – around five million rubles for its owners. I think it comes up to more that half a million dollars per month. Not a huge turnover considering the risks but probably enough to make a couple million per year.
Prostitution is not a crime in Russia, merely a (petty) misdemeanor, an “administrative infraction” like speeding, jaywalking or littering. In contrast, pimping and procuring is a felony. Lenta.ru suggests plausibly that Flirt went down because it had lost protection by the usual suspects, which include law enforcement. But perhaps not all is yet lost for these patriots.
By the way, I used strictly gendered language in the first paragraph because Flirt was staunchly heterosexual – I would even say conservative in its menu.