Ex-banker drops appeal against district court ruling

SINGAPORE - The former banker jailed for 19 weeks for paying for sex with an underage girl has dropped his appeal to the highest court.

Swiss national Juerg Buergin is understood to have left Singapore after completing his jail term earlier this month.

His appeal hearing had been scheduled for next week, but his lawyer Selva K. Naidu declined to say why it was discontinued on Friday.

The move means the Court of Appeal will not be called upon to affirm or clarify the "public interest" issue that could have affected others similarly convicted.

The 41-year-old former UBS executive director was convicted by a district court in April on two charges of paying a 17-year-old for sex and was sentenced to 19 weeks' jail.

The two offences occurred in hotels in September 2010 and January 2011.

Criminal case appeals against district court judgments ordinarily end in the High Court. Any further application to the Court of Appeal is considered only when the issues involve interpretation of the law which is of public interest.

The district court found Buergin did not know the girl was underage and the issue of lack of knowledge about her age was central in his defence.

His was the first of 51 cases involving the same girl to be tested on appeal to the High Court.

It dismissed his appeal against conviction in June and he then applied to seek the Court of Appeal's ruling on whether he had to have known the girl was underage to be found guilty.

Criminal lawyer Subhas Anandan, who is representing several of the 51 men accused of having sex with the girl, said Buergin's appeal would have settled an important question of law of public interest.

He added that he might apply on behalf of one of his clients through a "leap-frog" procedure for the appeals court to settle the same issue. If approved, it would be heard directly by the appeals court.

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.