Sunday, April 29, 2012

Two months ago, green activist Howard Shaw appeared with his wife on the cover of a high-society magazine for an article on enduring love stories. 

On Wednesday, the scion of the prominent Shaw family appeared in court with his wife, to face the charge of paying for sex with an underage girl. 

He was among four men who were charged on Wednesday, joining 44 others who were accused on Monday of committing the same crime, with the same girl. 

Shaw, 41, a former Singapore Environment Council (SEC) executive director, allegedly had sex with the girl on Oct 30, 2010 in Hotel 81 Bencoolen. 

Shaw and his wife married last November, and were featured on the cover of Singapore Tatler in February as a poster couple for a piece on 'Great Romances'. They met six years ago when she was participating in a Miss Earth pageant and he was training and judging contestants. 

Mrs Jessie Shaw appeared calm and composed as she sat next to her husband in the Subordinate Courts on Wednesday, but left quietly on her own after he was charged. 

Howard Shaw (right), 41, a former Singapore Environment Council (SEC) executive director, allegedly had sex with the girl on Oct 30, 2010 in Hotel 81 Bencoolen. Read Howard Shaw Biography


Described by him as level-headed and patient in the magazine article, she declined comment on Wednesday, only telling The Straits Times she was 'very sad' about the incident. 

Her husband, an SEC employee for 15 years and a third-generation descendant of Shaw Organisation co-founder Runme Shaw, appeared distraught during the entire hour he spent in the Subordinate Courts. 

He tripped over his words when answering District Judge Lim Tse Haw's question on whether he had surrendered his passport for bail. 

Shaw, who is said to be on leave from his post as Halcyon Group's senior vice-president of corporate social responsibility, declined comment. His next hearing is on June 18. 

The others charged were former River Valley High School teacher Chua Ren Cheng, 31, former executive director of operations in UBS Investment Bank Juerg Buergin, 40, and Edward Whistler Goh, 49, who owns a group of businesses. 

This brings to 48 the total number of men being implicated in a high-profile online vice ring for their alleged payment for sex to a prostitute under 18. 

More men are expected to be charged soon, but lawyers could not confirm the exact number. The case first hit headlines in February when around 80 men were hauled in for questioning by police. 

Those charged on Wednesday had allegedly paid between $450 and $750 for the girl, whose identity is now protected by a gag order. 

Court documents on Wednesday - unlike those on Monday - left out alleged pimp Tang Boon Thiew. It is believed that the four men had procured the girl's services directly. 

Both Goh and Swiss national Buergin face two charges each. The latter, who has a daughter back home, has been in remand since Tuesday night after he could not find a Singaporean bail guarantor. He said on Wednesday he would find one to post bail. 

Buergin allegedly had sex with the girl at Shangri-La Hotel on Sept 29, 2010, and at Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Jan 3 last year. His case will be heard again on June 18. 

On Wednesday, Goh's lawyer Wee Pan Lee also made an unsuccessful attempt to suppress his name, saying that the girl could be identified if his client's name was exposed. 


Among his reasons was that Goh had allegedly met the girl at a residential unit in Callidora Ville in Telok Kurau, which could be easily traced to its owner. 

District Judge Lim then asked if the condominium unit belonged to Goh or the girl, to which the lawyer said he was not ready to disclose. A Straits Times check revealed that Goh had been the owner of the unit on Oct 24 last year when the alleged sex took place. But it has since been sold. 

Wednesday's hearing was significant for another reason: The girl's name was mentioned in the four men's documents detailing the charges they face. 

But deputy public prosecutor Andrew Tan obtained a gag order on her identity.
In contrast, the chargesheets of the 44 men charged on Monday only described her as being under 18, a decision criticised by several lawyers representing some of the men. One of them, Mr Subhas Anandan, said the charges were 'flawed' without the girl's identity. 

In a statement later on Wednesday, the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) said the prosecution will be amending the charges for the 44 men to include the name of the girl. 


The AGC noted the implication of the lawyers of the possibility of prejudice to the defence if the girl was not named in the charge. This, it noted, was in spite of the fact that the accused and their counsel would have known who the person involved was. 

'Although the prosecution does not agree that this would be prejudicial to the defence, the prosecution has no objection to reverting to the previous practice as long as the person involved (who was underaged at the material time and is still below 21) is suitably protected,' it added. 

While prostitution is not illegal here, it is an offence to have paid sex with anyone under 18. This carries a maximum seven-year jail term and a fine.  Read sex industry in Singapore, Sex business is booming in Singapore

The punishment for breaking a gag order is a fine of up to $5,000 or jail time of up to 12 months, or both. Source : StraitTimes

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