SINGAPORE - A pimp from China who admitted in court last month that he forced an underage teen to be a prostitute here, on Wednesday denied doing so, prompting a special hearing on Thursday.
Tang Huisheng, 37, was convicted last month of four vice-related charges, including helping a customer to obtain paid sex with the 17-year-old girl.
But in a surprise turn on Wednesday, Tang, who had no lawyer, disputed some parts of the statement of facts, such as drugging and repeatedly assaulting the minor.
Community Court judge Shaiffudin Saruwan then ordered a special hearing today - likely to be behind closed doors - to resolve disputed points and sort out the correct basis for sentencing.
Before that twist in events, Deputy Public Prosecutor Stella Tan Wei Ling had asked for a cumulative sentence of at least 71/2 years' jail for Tang.
Sex traffickers who exploit minors for quick gain will be dealt with swiftly and harshly as there is a strong public interest in ensuring Singapore does not become their destination, she urged in her submissions on sentencing.
The prosecutor is seeking sentences for procuring the girl for prostitution, living on her immoral earnings and abetting a customer to have paid sex with a minor to run consecutively.
The penalties for the first two are five years' jail and a fine of $10,000 each, and for the third, seven years' jail and/or a fine.
For harbouring the underage girl, he could be jailed for up to five years and fined $10,000.
The court heard last month that in Zhuhai, China, before coming to Singapore, Tang drugged the girl with methamphetamine and had sex with her while she was in a stupor. He repeatedly asked her for sex and if she refused, would beat her or threaten to do so.
When he told her that he would be taking her to Singapore to earn money as a prostitute, she refused and was locked up in a fifth-floor unit.
She tried to escape but was caught and threatened by Tang and his sister with beatings and having acid splashed on her face if she tried to run away again.
On Wednesday, in court, Tang said in Mandarin through an interpreter that he had a clean record back home, adding that "if the girl dared jump from the fifth floor, she must be quite brave".
The girl's plight started when she needed to pay back loans for her late father's cancer treatment. She was tricked into meeting Tang in Zhuhai earlier this year under the pretext of obtaining work in a casino.
Tang brought her here in May. She began soliciting for customers in Geylang, and within 15 days, earned at least $9,000 for paid sex with around 150 customers. Tang took all her money and gambled it away at a casino.
DPP Tan added on Wednesday that there has been an increase in the number of cases involving the commercial exploitation of minors in recent years. In the last two years alone, there have been three series of high-profile cases with a total of 95 prosecutions.
The present case had generated public outcry due to the manner in which Tang procured the minor and brought her here with the specific purpose of sexually exploiting her for commercial gain, said DPP Tan.
A deterrent sentence was necessary to quell public disquiet and send a clear signal that all such offences would be denounced by the courts.
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