A prominent Singaporean businessman began a three-month prison sentence yesterday after being convicted of having paid sex with a minor, reports said.
Howard Shaw, 41, a grandson of Asian movie mogul Runme Shaw and a former environmental activist, said he felt "nervous" as he reported to a district court to begin his jail term, The Straits Times daily said. He will be eligible for release after eight weeks if he qualifies for a remission for good behaviour in prison.
Shaw, the grandson of Runme Shaw who founded the Shaw Organisation in Singapore with his brother Run Run Shaw, was convicted in July of having paid sex in October 2010 with a girl who was a few months short of her 18th birthday.
Besides Shaw, 50 other men including businessmen, civil servants and uniformed officers have been charged with having paid sex with the same girl, whose identity has been withheld on court orders. The scandal has shone a spotlight on Singapore's pragmatic approach to prostitution, which involves regulating the sex trade to protect minors and curbing criminal involvement in the industry.
Singapore has long been perceived as a conservative, even prudish society, but it has a thriving sex industry dating back to its beginnings as a key trading port.
The judge did not accept Shaw's argument that he had made an "honest and reasonable mistake" in ascertaining the girl's age, calling him "reckless" before handing down sentence.
Among the 51 men charged are five foreigners, including Juerg Buergin, a 40-year-old Swiss expatriate who had worked for banking giant UBS. The Straits Times said 11 of the men had been sentenced to between nine and 13 weeks in prison.