Online vice ring: 2 fail in appeal bids

The first two men to appeal against their jail sentences for having commercial sex with a minor in a long-running online vice-ring case failed in their bids on Friday. Former portfolio manager Ng Guan Mean, 38, and former financial planner Kenny Sim Choon Wee, 40, were among 51 men charged last year with having paid the 17-year-old for sex. The High Court upheld their punishments of nine and eight weeks in jail respectively.

Turning down the appeals, Justice Choo Han Teck said three factors in favour of the men had elicited "some sympathy" from the court. These included the girl being nearly of full age and the seriousness of the offence not having been made clear enough to the public and the two men.

Yet, "the warmth of sympathy" turned cold after the "many new offences" that followed, said the judge. The circumstances, therefore, required a strong general deterrent which the men could not be exceptions to, he found.

Ng, who suffers from major depression, paid $450 for sexual services from the girl at M Hotel in Anson Road on Oct 2, 2010. Sim, who has spastic cerebral palsy and walks with a stick, paid $500 for her services at Hotel 81 Bencoolen on Oct 18 that year. To date, 20 men have been sentenced to between eight and 19 weeks' jail for commercial sex with the minor.

All pleaded guilty except Swiss national Juerg Buergin, 41. The former bank executive director lost his appeal to the High Court and is understood to have left Singapore last month after completing a 19-week jail term.

He dropped a further appeal to the Court of Appeal to settle a "public interest issue" that could have affected other similar cases. The escort's pimp, Tang Boon Thiew, was jailed four years and 10 months and fined $90,000 for 20 vice-related charges. The 39-year-old lost his appeal against his sentence in June.

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