Man, 75, among 14 charged in latest underage vice scandal

From left, Tiah Chee Keong, 66, a bookkeeper; Chong Kwong Ann, 75, a retiree, and Toh Toh Loh, 60, a labourer. Mr Chong is the oldest among the 14 men charged for paying for sex with a 17-year-old girl.

SINGAPORE - THEY allegedly had commercial sex with a 17-year-old, but they were a shy lot in court on Wednesday, using a variety of props to cover their faces.

While most simply tried to use pieces of paper to hide their faces, some made a more concerted effort.

Ho Chee Keong, 36, and Ernest Lee Min Chong, 25, donned baseball caps, surgical masks and sunglasses. Lee even put on a jacket, which he did not wear earlier in the courtroom.

And then there was project manager Ng Keng Siong, 56, who refused to leave the building, insisting to The New Paper that he was waiting for a friend.

He eventually managed to slip away unnoticed.

These three were among 14 men who were charged on Wednesday with paying for sex with the minor between May 18 and May 28 this year.

The sex acts allegedly took place in hotels and lodging houses around Geylang. Most of the men gave the girl between $60 and $80. One gave her $150.

The youngest, full-time national serviceman Yap Jun Hao, 22, paid her $60. Eight of the men were above 55 years old.

The oldest was Chong Kwong Ann, 75, who saw her twice and paid $70 each time. Their jobs ran the gamut from cleaner to treasury adviser.

$40 for an hour

Social worker Ng Chak Song, 57, who allegedly paid the girl $40, was said to have spent just under an hour with her on May 27 in a Geylang hotel.

Ong Boon Hock, 61, Ng and Chong were repeat customers.

In court, the men sat quietly in the public gallery while waiting for their cases to be heard. When it was their turn in the dock, most kept their gaze to the ground or straight ahead.

Ten of them, who were unrepresented, indicated that they want to plead guilty. Their cases will be heard on Sept 11, Sept 12 or Oct 2.

Those with defence lawyers - IT manager Shoh Kwan Heng Leonard, 42, treasury adviser Ho and undergraduate Lee - will have their cases mentioned on Oct 3.

Unrepresented housekeeper Lim Chee Seng, 72, said he wants to claim trial.

Dressed in a blue polo shirt with a black collar, he was later seen walking out of court calmly. He even flashed a smile at waiting photographers.

This latest series of cases comes in the light of at least two other high-profile underage sex ring cases.

Underage girls

Their cases bring it up to a total of 77 men charged with having sex with underage girls in the three big cases so far.

Between April and July last year, 51 men were charged with paying for sex with a 17-year-old girl. At least 19 men have pleaded guilty and been jailed for between eight and 16 weeks.

Last month, Swiss national Juerg Buergin dropped his appeal after completing his 19-week jail term.

He was convicted by a district court in April on two charges of paying a 17-year-old for sex after a trial. In June this year, 12 men were charged with having paid sex with a 16-year-old girl.

The maximum penalty for engaging in commercial sex with a girl under 18 is seven years' jail and a fine.

lawsm@sph.com.sg

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