SAF officer denies having sex with underage teen

SINGAPORE - A Lieutenant-Colonel in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has become the third man to go on trial for allegedly having sex with the same underage prostitute.

Emlyn Thomas Thariyan, 37, is not disputing that he "booked" the teenager by texting, and spent time with her at a hotel in Bencoolen Street. But he denies that they had sex.

On Wednesday, his lawyer S. Skandarajah objected to the girl - who was 17 at the time of the offence - testifying behind closed doors. He argued that the trial should be held entirely in open court. Deputy Public Prosecutor Kavita Uthrapathy disagreed, however, saying the teen was a vulnerable victim of a sex crime.

District Judge Eugene Teo allowed the victim, who cannot be named, to give evidence in camera after clearing the public gallery and asking reporters to leave.

Thariyan, who is single, is accused of buying the sexual services of the minor for $500 on Feb 18, 2011. She is said to have had paid sex with 51 men.

Deputy Superintendent Connie Seek, a forensic analyst with the Criminal Investigation Department, told an earlier hearing that the lieutenant-colonel exchanged text messages with the victim and her pimp Tang Boon Thiew.

A representative of Hotel 81 Bencoolen also testified that the room registration card signed by the defendant was authentic.

Former Swiss banker Juerg Buergin, 41, and business consultant Edward Whistler Goh Ngian Meng, 50, are also being tried for allegedly having sex with the same underage prostitute. All three trials are ongoing.

Eighteen men have been jailed for between eight and 16 weeks for having sex with the girl.

Tang, who will also take the stand as a prosecution witness against Thariyan, recruited her in September 2010. The 39-year-old pimp is serving a jail term of four years and 10 months at Changi Prison, after being convicted earlier this year of a string of vice-related offences.

Tang - who is appealing against his sentence - ran an online agency providing female escorts who offered sexual services for money.

The first time he met the underage girl, he told her that an escort's job was to give men companionship, but she could earn good money if she provided sexual services.

When he later found out she was actually 17 years old, he did not amend her age, which was given as 18, on the website. The trial continued on Wednesday.

If convicted, Thariyan faces up to seven years in jail and a fine.

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