A Swiss expatriate facing a possible jail term for having sex with an under-age Singaporean prostitute said at the start of his trial that he was tricked into thinking she was an adult.
Juerg Buergin, 41, is contesting charges filed against him and 50 other local and foreign men accused of paying for sex with the 17-year-old call girl in 2010 and 2011, a case involving prominent figures that caused a scandal in Singapore.
"The prostitute, in a conspiracy with the pimp, had deceived the accused as to her true age and thereby intentionally induced him to engage her services," his lawyer Selva Naidu said in a written statement released to journalists yesterday.
The prosecution said the website advertised the girl as an "18-year-old polytechnic student".
Buergin's lawyer said the prostitute had not been "coerced into the trade by threats or intimidation".
Singapore law makes it illegal for anyone to pay for the sexual services of a girl under the age of 18. The offence is punishable by up to seven years in prison, a fine, or both. Buergin, a married former executive with banking giant UBS, is out on bail.
Prosecutors said yesterday that he booked the prostitute, who went by the name "Chantelle" on the escort agency website, on two occasions - in September 2010 and January 2011 - and met her at a luxury hotel.
The case caused an uproar last year after 51 men, including business executives, a former school principal, a navy captain and a police superintendent were accused of paying for sex with the girl. One of them was socialite and environmental activist Howard Shaw, 41, a grandson of Asian movie mogul Runme Shaw.