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'I don't know why I did this': Ex-Singapore embassy counsellor admits to secretly filming boy in Tokyo bathhouse

'I don't know why I did this': Ex-Singapore embassy counsellor admits to secretly filming boy in Tokyo bathhouse
The 55-year-old man, who was a counsellor at the Singapore Embassy in Tokyo, has reportedly left the foreign service.
PHOTO: Facebook/Singapore Embassy Tokyo

A counsellor at the Singapore Embassy in Japan who admitted to secretly filming a boy at a public bath in Tokyo, among other acts of voyeurism, has been suspended from duty to assist in investigations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on May 2.

The 55-year-old counsellor — a diplomatic rank for experienced foreign service officers — was caught using a smartphone to film an undressed male teenager in the men's changing room of a public bath on Feb 27, Asahi Shimbun reported.

A security camera at the bathhouse caught the man, who has not been named, pointing his smartphone at another male customer, the Japanese daily reported. The incident was reported to the police by an employee of the bathhouse in Tokyo's Minato ward, where the Singapore embassy is located.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, MFA said it was made aware of the allegations against its officer when contacted by the Japanese media on May 1.

"The staff in question had completed his tour of duty as scheduled and returned to Singapore in mid-April 2024. He did not inform the ministry until he was asked about the incident yesterday," an MFA spokesperson said, adding that the ministry is "prepared to waive diplomatic immunity to facilitate investigations if the alleged facts bear out".

Earlier reports in Japanese media said the man had been removed from his post, but MFA clarified that he is suspended.

Japan's public baths, known as sento, are typically used in a communal fashion, with visitors unclothing themselves in gender-segregated changing rooms before showering and entering the bath waters.

Investigators who searched the man's phone found footage of the boy in the nude, as well as footage of multiple male customers that appeared to have been taken in the bath's communal changing room.

The man admitted to investigators that he had also taken photos surreptitiously at other public baths. At least 700 images taken over a six-month period — which he deleted that night on Feb 27 — were found on his phone.

He introduced himself to police officers as a diplomat and refused to go to a police station, telling them he would answer questions at the bathhouse, where he admitted filming at five other times in the past.

He also refused to hand over his smartphone to the police, but deleted the photos of the boy he had taken that night at the request of the student's parents. The man was not charged.

The male junior high school student was 13, reported Japanese national broadcaster NHK.

The man told officers that he regretted his actions, saying: "I don't know why I did this."

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department is set to make a request in May for the man to appear in a Japanese court, with the police considering charges against him for violating laws that prohibit child pornography and the filming of a person's body without consent.

The police have evidence they will provide to prosecutors, according to the Japanese media.

The police are in discussions with Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Police Agency to make a request to the embassy to ask the man to turn himself in, as he had immunity from arrest in Japan as a diplomat.

There are difficulties in apprehending diplomatic envoys linked to criminal cases in Japan, a senior police officer said.

"When people come forward and identify themselves as diplomats, police cannot arrest them, even if they voluntarily submit to questioning. Police officers know this. Therefore, they refrain from asking them to accompany them to (a police station)," the officer told Asahi Shimbun.

Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, diplomatic officers enjoy immunity from criminal jurisdiction in their receiving state. They are also protected from prosecution and physical restraint by law enforcement authorities.

MFA told ST that it expects "all its staff to uphold the highest standards of conduct, and to abide by the laws of their host countries".

The ministry said it has not received information from the authorities in Tokyo since the alleged offence took place on Feb 27, but it has contacted them for information.

"We will co-operate with the Japanese authorities and take the necessary actions. We would also be prepared to waive diplomatic immunity to facilitate investigations if the alleged facts bear out," MFA added.

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This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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