The operator of a popular online prostitutes directory that 'encouraged prostitution on a large scale' was jailed for 18 months yesterday. Chan Yuk-bun, 48, was sentenced in the District Court after earlier being convicted of conspiring to live off the earnings of prostitution. The site's designer, Peterson Wong Tze-wing, 45, programmer Chan Chik-yin, 31, photo processor Andy Kwok, 31, and three photographers - Lam Yiu-chung, 35, Kwan Yiu-cheong, 30, and Lee Yiu-keung, 31 - were each ordered to perform 180 hours of community service. They were also fined HK$20,000. The court had heard the seven made money by charging for adverts on the website, which they ran for three years until their arrest in May 2006. It is the first conviction of staff involved in advertising sex workers on the internet. Chan Yuk-bun had admitted the company made HK$90,000 to HK$100,000 a month by charging each prostitute HK$600. His personal bank account showed HK$6.5 million in deposits during the years the site operated. Deputy Judge David Dufton said a deterrent sentence was needed because such websites might allow syndicates to hide other criminal activity. The company sent photographers to brothels to take pictures of the women, which were uploaded to the website and included in the adverts, which included the prostitutes' names, age, service offered, fees and addresses. Judge Dufton accepted the prostitutes in this case were not subjected to control, influence or direction, unlike if they were involved with a pimp. But he said the case was serious because it was 'a sophisticated operation' and 'encouraged prostitution on a large scale' for three years. Also, despite a disclaimer, the website employed no measures to prevent access by the under-aged. Hong Kong law does not prohibit prostitution. But it is illegal to solicit for business or advertise it using signs, or for third parties to derive income from someone's employment as a sex worker. The judge rejected the defendants' plea of being ignorant of the law. He said anyone should know that involvement in vice-related activities risked prosecution. Judge Dufton said advertising sex services was allowed under British law unless the prosecution proved those prostitutes were being controlled for gain. But he said Hong Kong was 'reluctant' to hold a similar stance, given it was more conservative than a western country when it came to prostitution. He said the website encouraged prostitution on a large scale and involved many women from the mainland, who were in the city illegally.