SINGAPORE - The story of how a 17-year-old girl from China ended up being a prostitute at the centre of an underage sex ring here was described by the judge hearing the case as "really heartbreaking" on Wednesday.
A district court heard how the minor went through a harrowing experience which began when her family in Shandong, China, wanted to raise money to pay off her late father's debts.
She embarked on a journey that brought her to Macau, then Zhuhai, China, where she was beaten by her pimp and forced to have sex with him repeatedly before she ended up in Geylang to work as a prostitute.
Three men pleaded guilty to charges of engaging in commercial sex with the girl and were sentenced to 11 weeks in jail each.
The three were logistics supervisor Yeo Choon Seng, 41, social worker Ng Chak Song, 57, and cleaner Low Kia How, 50. Sentencing for 65-year-old cleaner Koh Sui Kim, who was also convicted, was postponed to Oct 2, pending a medical report.
In passing sentence, District Judge Low Wee Ping said the teenager was here because of international trafficking of minors for the purpose of prostitution. "I hope you will now understand the rationale as to why the legal and judicial system takes a serious view of these offences."
Deputy Public Prosecutor Stella Tan Wei Ling said the minor's woes began after her father died from cancer in October 2011. He incurred debts of 100,000 yuan (S$21,000) for his medical treatment. The minor and her mother, on meagre salaries, could barely pay the debts off, said Ms Tan.
The minor's employer suggested that she work in a Macau casino to earn more money. The minor agreed and travelled with her employer to Macau in January this year.
Her employer introduced her to Tang Huiying - the sister of the minor's pimp, Tang Huisheng, 37 - who told the teenager that she could not help her get a job in the casino as she was underage.
Instead, she told her that she could solicit "VIP customers" and earn a 1 per cent commission.