| SINGAPORE, April 18
SINGAPORE, April 18 A former UBS banker and the
son of a prominent family are among dozens of men who have
appeared in court in Singapore on charges of paying an underage
girl for sex in an online prostitution scandal enveloping
high-profile executives and civil servants.
Singapore, a financial hub that rivals Hong Kong, has sought
to soften its squeaky-clean image in recent years and recast
itself as a vibrant, global centre with casinos, high-end shops
and cultural events to cater to wealthy foreigners and locals.
Prostitution is not against the law in the city-state, which
has an active and barely concealed sex industry, but having paid
sex with someone under the age 18 is a crime.
Juerg Buergin, until recently the Singapore country head of
operations at UBS's investment banking unit, faces two charges
of paying for sex with the underage girl.
She has not been publicly identified and is now over 18 but
was younger than that at the time of the alleged offences.
UBS declined to comment but a source at the bank told
Reuters that Buergin resigned earlier this year.
In handcuffs during a court appearance on Wednesday, Buergin
was being held pending bail of S$15,000 ($12,000) and intends to
plead not guilty at a later hearing, his lawyer Selva Naidu
said. If convicted, he faces up to 7 years in prison on each
Howard Shaw, a former executive director of the non-profit
Singapore Environment Council and British-educated scion of the
famous Shaw cinema family, also appeared in court to be charged
but left without talking to reporters.
Others charged include a former school principal, a former
head of strategic planning at the Police Training Command, a
former senior lawyer for Singapore's environmental agency and a
On Monday, 44 of the men appeared in court. As many as 80
people have been questioned by police, according to local media.
The underage sex case comes less than three months after
Singapore removed its chief of civil defence and replaced the
head of its police anti-drug unit in an investigation by the
anti-corruption watchdog of "serious personal misconduct".
The man accused of running the online prostitution ring was
charged in November. He recruited the escorts through a Facebook
page and kept records of all of their transactions, the Straits
Times newspaper reported.
Court documents say the offences allegedly took place
between September 2010 and February 2011 in various cheap and
expensive hotels across Singapore - including Marina Bay Sands,
a casino resort run by Las Vegas Sands, and M Hotel, owned by
CDL Hospitality Trusts.
($1 = 1.2486 Singapore dollars)
(Additional reporting by Kevin Lim; Editing by John O'Callaghan
and Sanjeev Miglani)