Sauna boss denies running brothel: ‘I only bought Tantric sex chairs to match carpets’

The Steam and Sun in Chalton Street. Picture: Google

The Steam and Sun in Chalton Street. Picture: Google - Credit: Archant

An alleged brothel boss furnished his club with special sex chairs simply because they looked nice and matched the carpets, he told a court this week.

Ross Lawson admitted purchasing S-shaped Tantra Chairs for the two luxury penthouse suites at his Steam and Sun Health Club.

But he insisted the £1,000 chairs – made of stain-resistant leather and advertised as “enhancing lovemaking” – were not bought for sex. They had caught his eye after being featured in a lifestyle magazine, he told Blackfriars Crown Court on Monday.

“It was just a piece of furniture that looked good in the room,” he said. “We’re charging £130 per hour in that room – you can’t put in an IKEA chair, you need to make it look special.”

He added that the chair matched the carpet and had been described on its website as a “dual-purpose chair” that was not only for sex.

Lawson, 32, of Oakwood Road, St Albans, the director and owner of Steam and Sun, is accused of managing a brothel and laundering its profits over seven years before police raided the premises in February 2012. He acknowledged that undercover officers were offered sex but denied being a “pimp”.

He said he had “no idea” that the club’s self-employed masseuses were having sex with clients. He added: “I never authorised anybody to provide any sexual services and have not offered any to clients. They were contracted to do body massage, nothing else.”

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The trial has heard that the venue may have pulled in as much as £26million a year, based on records showing £72,000 takings for a single night in August 2011.

Lawson told the court that such figures were not the norm and were down to a big-spending client. “He was a very wealthy gentleman who had an MBE,” he said. “He was not married, didn’t have any kids and he knew he had about six months to live.”

Lawson said the club, in Chalton Street, King’s Cross, was regularly inspected by officers from Camden Council, which issued its massage and alcohol licences, who never raised any concerns.

He admitted that its website had an “obviously sexual” tone. Masseuses were “horny”, “busty” and with “few taboos” – but claimed this was to attract business. He likened the premises to a strip club, explaining that customers came not just for massage, but also for the company of a “pretty girl”.

Lawson is standing trial alongside four other defendants, including his law graduate sister Jade Lawson, 27, of Linkway Parade, Hampshire, who is charged with assisting in the running of a brothel and acquiring criminal property, namely the wages she received.

Waldemar Walczak, 29, of Coopers Lane, King’s Cross, also faces charges of assisting the running of a brothel and acquiring criminal property. His wife Karolina Ginter, 33, and her brother Rafal Ginter, 29, also of Coopers Lane, are accused of acquiring criminal property. The defendants deny all charges.

The case continues.