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Singapore

'Singapore agent' for Thai sex workers gets jail for involvement in vice ring

SINGAPORE: A man who helped run a vice ring in Singapore, handling up to nine Thai sex workers and arranging for their lodging, was sentenced to 15 months' jail on Wednesday (Aug 11).

Tan Boon Kheng, 58, pleaded guilty to five charges, mostly under the Women's Charter. Another four charges were considered in sentencing.

Tan was roped into the vice trade in 2018 through a friend known to him as Ah Beng.

Ah Beng said he knew of Thai women who could provide sexual services in Singapore and told Tan that he could earn from their prostitution.

Tan agreed to receive nine sex workers. For each of them, he paid Ah Beng S$300 as a "recommendation fee", the court heard.

Tan later signed a tenancy agreement for an apartment to house the sex workers. He and co-accused Ng Hock Soon, 66, forked out S$1,900 for rental in the first month.

Sometime in July 2018, Tan was told that the business for sex workers was slow, and he went to Geylang to check out the situation.

He observed that there was high human traffic there and spotted a lodging house which he later rented. He told the sex workers to provide services there.

In August 2018, two Thai sex workers arrived in Singapore. Tan received them at Golden Mile Complex and took them to their accommodation.

He kept their passports and briefed them, saying they had to fulfil their contracts before getting their passports back.

They also had to pay him S$1,200 each before they could have their passports, a move to deter them from running away. Tan had paid for the cost of transport for the sex workers to come to Singapore from Thailand.

In September 2018, police officers from the specialised crime branch and street walker task force raided the place in Geylang where the sex workers plied their trade.

They arrested four women, including the two Tan had hired, as well as another co-accused who had on him more than S$3,600 in cash.

Tan was arrested at Woodlands Checkpoint soon after and his phone was seized. The police conducted a follow-up raid at other locations and found nine Thai passports.

Ng was arrested in February 2019. Tan was charged in court in May 2019, but he later absconded and was arrested again in March 2021.

He pleaded guilty to an unrelated offence of helping a man retain criminal proceeds of S$18,300.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Emily Koh asked for 15 to 16 months' jail for Tan, saying he was more deeply and actively involved in the vice syndicate than his two co-accused.

"The accused was for all intents and purposes the 'Singapore agent' for these prostitutes," she said, detailing how Tan sourced for their accommodation and was in contact with them through Ah Beng.

However, Ms Koh acknowledged there was no coercion or violence used on the sex workers and that they had willingly engaged in prostitution.

In mitigation, Tan said he was old and had multiple illnesses, particularly heart disease. He said he had undergone an operation and had a pacemaker in his body.

The judge backdated his sentence to the date of his remand in March this year.

Source: CNA/ll(gs)

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