Singapore socialite sentenced in teen sex scandal
A prominent Singaporean businessman was sentenced to three months in jail yesterday for having paid sex with a minor, as dozens of other accused men await their fate in a prostitution scandal.
Howard Shaw, 41, a grandson of Asian movie mogul Runme Shaw and a former environmental activist, was charged in April after being found to have engaged the services of a 17-year-old Singaporean in October 2010.
Shaw, a married father of two, is appealing the sentence and posted bail pending the appeal hearing.
Prostitution is legal in Singapore, but in the scandal which erupted this year, 51 men ranging from their early 20s to late 40s have been charged under a 2008 law that makes it a crime to pay for sex with a woman under 18.
The list of men charged with paying for sex with the same underage prostitute includes businessmen, civil servants and uniformed officers. The maximum sentence is seven years in prison and a fine.
District court judge See Kee Oon said he was “unable to agree that there was an honest and reasonable mistake” committed by Shaw, and therefore had to impose a sentence which would serve as a strong deterrent to customers of underage prostitution.
“The factual context showed that the accused was looking for an 18-year-old for his liaison,” See said. “What he implicitly must have recognised was the risk that she might not be 18.”
The judge rejected Shaw’s defence of having been duped by a now defunct website advertising the prostitute’s services, which stated that she was 18, and noted that he never asked for proof of her age.
“He was reckless. He could have guarded against committing a potential offence, but he did not take any steps towards this end.”
The prostitute cannot be named because she was a minor when the offences were committed.
Shaw, who is married to a former beauty pageant contestant, is the fourth man to be convicted for having paid sex with the same call girl.
Five foreigners are also accused, among them Juerg Buergin, a 40-year-old Swiss expatriate who had worked for banking giant UBS.
Singapore has long been perceived as a conservative, even prudish, society but it has a thriving sex industry dating back to its beginnings as a key trading port of the British empire.
The scandal has shone a spotlight on Singapore’s pragmatic approach to prostitution, which involves regulating the sex trade to protect minors and curbing criminal involvement in the industry.