Four more charged in Singapore teen prostitution bust
SINGAPORE, April 19 — Four more men — including an environmental activist, and an ex-grassroots leader who was also a former government teaching scholar — were charged in court yesterday for having paid sex with a minor who was touted on an online prostitution ring.
They are the second group to be charged in the high-profile case, after 44 other alleged clients of the girl were charged on Monday.
The girl was identified in court documents yesterday. However, she cannot be named after the court allowed a prosecution application to impose a gag order to protect her identity.
The gag order, which prohibits the publication of any details that could lead to the identification of the girl, also applies to members of the public.
Among the group that was charged yesterday was former Singapore Environment Council executive director Howard Shaw Chai Li, 41.
Shaw, who is a third-generation descendent of the Shaw movie moguls, is said to have paid the girl, who was below the legal prostitution age of 18 then, S$500 (RM1,224) for sex on October 30, 2010.
Another person charged was former River Valley High School teacher Chua Ren Cheng, 31. Responding to media queries, the Ministry of Education said Chua resigned from the teaching service “with effect from February 1”. According to MOE, Chua was a recipient of a Government teaching scholarship.
Chua, who used to chair the youth executive committee of Taman Jurong Community Club, is said to have spent S$750 to have sex with the girl at a budget hotel on December 22, 2010. He was the only one among the group yesterday who said he intended to plead guilty. Chua, who was unrepresented, was given one week to decide if he intends to engage a lawyer.
Juerg Buergin, a 40-year-old Swiss national, was also charged. Buergin was formerly UBS Investment Bank’s country head of operations here. He quit abruptly earlier this year. He is accused of paying the girl a total of S$1,250 for two alleged trysts at the Shangri-La and Mandarin Oriental hotels.
The fourth man charged was Edward Whistler Goh Ngian Meng, 49, who runs a business consultancy and management training firm.
On September 26, 2010, he allegedly paid S$450 for sex with the girl. On Oct 24 last year, he is said to have engaged her again, paying S$500.
Goh’s lawyer, Wee Pan Lee, tried to seek a court order preventing the publication of his client’s name. The court, however, dismissed Goh’s argument that the girl could be identified through the records kept by the hotel where he allegedly had sex with the girl.
Commercial sex with a minor carries mandatory imprisonment up to seven years and a possible fine.
According to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), the charges against the group that was hauled to court on Monday will be amended to detail the girl’s particulars.
In a media statement, the AGC explained why the girl’s particulars were initially omitted.
“When the charges were first tendered and accepted by the Court, the premise was that the defence shared with the prosecution the objective of minimising the risk of disclosure of the identity of the person involved, whether inadvertently or otherwise, and that this would be achieved if the name of the person involved was not included in the charges tendered,” the AGC said.
Referring to recent comments in the press by lawyers representing some of the accused, the AGC noted that the remarks suggest “a preference for the previous practice of naming the person involved but procuring a gag order at the same time”, as well as allude to “the possibility of prejudice to the defence if the person involved were not named in the charge despite the fact that the accused persons and their counsel would have known who the person involved was”.
The AGC reiterated that, although the prosecution “does not agree that this would be prejudicial to the defence, the prosecution has no objection to reverting to the previous practice as long as the person involved (who was underaged at the material time and is still below 21) is suitably protected”.
It is believed the authorities called up 80 men for questioning when they swooped in on the online vice syndicate last December.
TODAY understands that about 60 will be charged in total, meaning another dozen or so are expected to be hauled to court. — Today