SINGAPORE: A German businessman who marketed sex tours to undercover policemen in Singapore was found guilty on Friday (Jul 12) of promoting commercial sex with minors in the Philippines.
Michael Frank Hartung, formerly a senior executive at Deutsche Bank, was convicted of two charges of distributing information to promote commercial sex with minors.
The 48-year-old man had met with two men who were actually undercover police officers at a Starbucks cafe at Raffles City Shopping Centre in September 2015. He also met two other undercover policemen at XI&O pub in Mackenzie Road in April 2016.
He had given these four men - who went by aliases Michael, Jackson, Paul and Frank - information concerning commercial sex with minors in the Philippines.
Hartung had claimed trial to the charges and denied in the 20-day trial that he intended to plan any trip for actual paid sex with minors.
In his defence, he had claimed that the information he provided to the undercover officers was general information that could be obtained online, and that he had "played along" as he did not want to offend what he thought were legitimate business prospects.
FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH UNDERCOVER OFFICERS VIA YAHOO MESSENGER
Hartung, who is a Singapore permanent resident, first communicated with Jackson on Yahoo Online Messenger, where the latter mentioned his wish to go overseas for a low-profile tour for commercial sex with girls who were "young" and "inexperienced".
Jackson said he wanted a "safe" and secretive tour lasting five days and four nights, with at least three virgin girls aged either 15 or 16 for three nights.
Hartung then invited Jackson to meet him in person to discuss the details of the requested sex tour, as well as Jackson's "expectations".
Hartung met Jackson, along with fellow undercover police officer Michael, at Starbucks Coffee at Raffles City Shopping Centre on Sep 26, 2015.
During the meeting, Hartung told the Jackson and Michael that he had access to local contacts in the Philippines who would facilitate the arrangements for six virgin girls aged between 14 and 16.
Hartung also gave the men advice on challenges typically faced when taking young girls to hotels in the city for sex, including attracting unwanted attention and suspicion from hotel security guards. He provided solutions to overcome those challenges.
SECOND MEETING AFTER DISCUSSIONS ON SEX PORTAL
Several months after this meet-up, Hartung met two other undercover policemen - Paul and Frank - to discuss another sex trip.
This was after he had discussed with one of the officers - who had spoken to Hartung on an online sex portal under the alias Darkthrone - who had said he wanted to go to Asia to "try young blood".
This was jargon for engaging in sex acts with minors.
Hartung, who went under the alias Lord Protector on the sex site, replied: "Definitely we can share ideas and try young blood".
Hartung agreed with Darkthrone that it was difficult to find "young blood" in Singapore, and said it was "much easier" in the Philippines and Cambodia.
The conversation during his meeting with Paul and Frank was recorded secretly. Hartung recommended the Philippines over Cambodia as a "safer" destination for sexual services with minors, as the people in the Philippines were "generally poor and treated such conduct as mere commercial transactions".
Hartung also advised the two officers that it would be easier to procure girls between the ages of six and 12 for sexual services rather than teenagers aged between 13 and 17 if they were schooling or taking examinations.
HE GAVE DETAILS OF SEX TOURS WITH MINORS
He also described other details, including how the girls would be selected by a middleman who would visit the villages to select them, how they would be delivered to the men in Manila, and the prices they could expect to pay.
He said the "normal" price for sexual services from a minor in the Philippines could go as low as 5,000 pesos (S$354), and that 10,000 pesos was considered overpriced - with 9,000 pesos paid to an adult female chaperone and the remaining to the minor herself.
Sharing his own personal experience, Hartung said the men might face "disappointments" at first, but that the process would "get easier over time" once they paid the middleman money.
Hartung in his defence had said he was not interested in the topic as he was not responsive in his chats with Jackson on Yahoo Online Messenger, and that he was merely playing along in his chats there as well as on the sex portal.
The married man claimed he had no intention of planning any tours for the four men, saying he was a legitimate businessman trying to develop opportunities for his company, Erasig LLP.
Defence lawyer Mohamed Niroze Idroos had argued that his client had been “incited” and “instigated” into providing information about commercial sex with minors under 18 in the Philippines.
TEXT EXCHANGES VERY REVEALING: JUDGE
District Judge Ng Cheng Thiam convicted Hartung on both charges, saying he had reviewed the defence's case and found "nothing therein to raise a reasonable doubt".
He said the chats that led to Hartung's first meeting with the undercover officers were "indeed very revealing". In one instance, Hartung was asked if he helped organise tours in Thailand or Cambodia, to which he replied positively in German: "How many, how long, and how extreme".
Hartung also asked if the undercover officers had the budget for it, and added that "literally everything is possible".
As the judge read out his remarks on the case, Hartung sat in the dock in a blue long-sleeved shirt, fidgeting.
Referring to the exchange on the online sex portal, the judge said Lord Protector (Hartung) knew what Darkthrone wanted, and subsequently arranged for a meeting in person.
Addressing Hartung's defence, the judge said he found the counsel's arguments inconsistent with evidence provided by Hartung himself.
The judge adjourned mitigation and sentencing to Aug 15.