Wednesday, April 18, 2012

44 men charged with having sex with minor

SINGAPORE - The first group of men who allegedly paid for sex with a minor via an online vice ring - a case that grabbed headlines in February because it involved high-ranking men in the public and private sectors - were charged in court yesterday.

Among the 44 who entered the dock were former Pei Chun Public School principal Lee Lip Hong - the only one who said he intended to plead guilty - ex-lawyers, naval officers, a policeman and managing directors of private firms.

The offence carries mandatory imprisonment - paid sex with a girl under 18 carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail and a possible fine.

Lee, 39, faces two charges of having commercial sex with a minor. He was not represented and told the court he is not looking to engage a lawyer.

Lee had unexpectedly quit his job last December, telling parents of his former students in a letter that he was leaving because of personal reasons and family commitments.

It is not known how many underage girls are involved, but Tang Boon Thiew was named as the man who provided the prostitutes for the 44 who were charged yesterday.

Tang has been charged with 34 counts under the provisions of the Women's Charter and one count of commercial sex with a minor on Nov 4 last year. It is not known if more charges could be pressed against him. Offences relating to prostitution under the Women's Charter criminalise those who live off the earnings of prostitutes, among others.

In all, 60 men were said to have been called up to help in the investigations after their numbers were found stored in the mobile phone of the underage prostitute.

The men charged yesterday are aged between 21 and 48. All except two are Singaporeans.

They are said to have paid between S$450 and S$850 for the sexual services; some for a period of as short as 45 minutes. The offences allegedly took place between Sept 23, 2010, and Feb 18 last year.

Most of them allegedly took the prostitutes to budget hotels around Bencoolen. One of them had his tryst at Marina Bay Sands.

Criminal lawyer Subhas Anandan, who is representing the most number of the accused, argued that the charges against his 10 clients were flawed because they lacked the particulars of the alleged prostitute. The court heard that these details were left out at the direction of the Attorney-General's Chambers.

Mr Anandan said his clients would be claiming trial because they cannot plead guilty to the charges that did not state the name nor age of the prostitute.

Outside the court, Mr Anandan told reporters: "How is anybody going to know what he is charged for when you don't know who the girl is, and what her age is? We just can't accept the word of the prosecution ... We are going to ask the prosecution to give us further particulars. If they do not, we will take it up in the High Court."

Wah.. I usually support the ladies but now I've got to support the guys. How can they be charged if they don't know the age of the prostitutes or how can they be charged if the prostitute blatantly lied about her age? Should just charge the guy who provides the ladies. Lesson learnt - Next time must check IC or passport of prostitute liao.

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