Online vice bust nets surprise

The women the online vice syndicate offered were not cheap.

They went from $500 upwards but that was small change for some of the clients.

The majority were from the private sector, a mixed bag of blue-collared workers but also bankers, lawyers, a senior vice-president of a private company and a civil activist from a prominent family.

There were also a primary school principal and a senior police officer.

The New Paper on Sunday learnt that police moved in towards the end of 2011 and smashed the operation, extracting details of the high-end clientele.

By December, investigators at the Specialised Crime Division at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) were calling in about 80 men. Some of them are Western expatriates.

The elite unit of detectives and investigators has been involved in major operations targeting loan shark activities, counterfeit goods and vice operations.

In June 2010, the unit and other cops smashed a vice syndicate operating out of a budget hotel along Balestier Road. And 17 foreign women were arrested.

The syndicate had also used the Internet to advertise their sexual services. These syndicates have since taken their operation to condominiums. (See report on Page 8.)

In the latest case, investigators questioned the men.

The men had no clue they were in trouble until they were called to the CID. They had all procured the services of prostitutes from the online sex syndicate.

TNPS learnt that after the 80 men gave their statements, 60 were arrested and released on bail.

The rest, who were released without charge, had not engaged in intercourse, TNPS learnt.

The operation is fast turning out to be the biggest bust of an online vice syndicate.

Some of the men have since turned to prominent criminal lawyer Subhas Anandan, who said he will be representing six people involved in the investigations.

"The first time I was approached to represent one of them was about two to three weeks ago. Then more of them came.

"They're all working-class people," he said, when asked about the occupations of his clients.

In reply to media queries, a police spokesman said they are investigating a suspected online vice operation as part of ongoing enforcement efforts to clamp down on vice syndicates.

The spokesman continued: "As investigations are currently ongoing, it is not appropriate to provide further details at this juncture."

Among those arrested was the civil activist who TNPS contacted last night. He said: "I haven't heard of this, I don't know anything about it."

Subsequent calls went unanswered.

One of the bankers arrested is an executive director of an offshore bank. He is said to have left his previous position abruptly in December.

His was not the only sudden resignation. The police officer and school principal also quit their jobs in December.

The ex-principal linked to the case is in his 30s, and is married with a child, reported Shin Min Daily News.

Shortly after graduating from a university here, he is believed to have started a family, the evening tabloid reported.

He began his career in education about 15 years ago and was a secondary school teacher before heading a primary school as a vice-principal. He was promoted to principal a few years later.

He resigned in December last year, to the surprise of teachers, students and parents who knew him.

A parent, whose son was attending the school while he was still principal told TNPS: "He was very competent and ran the school well.

"I attended one of his talks and I felt that he knew what he was talking about - he made a lot of sense."

Several criminal lawyers may also be implicated, TNPS learnt.

When told lawyers may be involved, a lawyer in private practice said: "This scandal, if it's true, it's really big time. Because for the first time, lawyers would be involved in a matter like this."

The investigation is far from over and TNPS understands more men will be called in for questioning.

This article was first published in The New Paper.