Former UBS AG Executive Director Juerg Buergin was convicted of two charges of having paid sex with an underage prostitute in Singapore, with the judge saying that mistaking a minor’s age isn’t a defense.
Singapore’s laws impose a higher standard of care to prevent the sexual exploitation of minors, subordinate court Judge Eddy Tham said today. Buergin, who could be jailed for as long as seven years and fined for each charge, will be sentenced on May 8.
Buergin, 41, had pleaded not guilty with his lawyer arguing that the then 17-year-old girl and her pimp had conspired to deceive the Swiss national that she was 18. Prosecutors, who have charged 51 men for sex with the prostitute, said the relevant Singapore law makes it an absolute liability offense. Buergin is the first of the men to plead not guilty and stand trial.
Prosecutor Kavitha Uthrapathy asked for a deterrent sentence of at least six months for each charge as Buergin had showed no remorse by standing trial.
Selva Naidu, Buergin’s lawyer had urged the judge to consider a shorter sentence in line with the other 18 men who have been jailed for as long as 16 weeks for sex with the same girl. Buergin hasn’t decided if he will appeal, Naidu said.
Buergin, now a businessman, left UBS in February 2012, about two months before he was charged. He testified in his defense that he couldn’t remember if he had sex with the underage prostitute at the Shangri-La Hotel in September 2010 and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in January 2011.
He had sought the services of at least 10 other escorts from the same pimp who were between 20 and 43 years old, his lawyer had said during the trial to show that he hadn’t been seeking younger prostitutes.
Tang Boon Thiew, the pimp who arranged the escorts including the underage girl known as Chantelle, testified that he wasn’t aware she was under 18 when he first introduced her to Buergin.
“It is also irrelevant if he was a victim of deception practised on him by the pimp or the minor,” Judge Tham said in his judgment on Buergin.
The woman, now 20, came across as a credible and truthful witness in her testimony that they had sex on two occasions and had no reason to embellish the case against Buergin, Tham said.
Singapore has seen a recent spate of high-profile criminal cases involving sex-related charges. Earlier this month, three Lebanese soccer referees were charged with accepting sexual favors in return for fixing a match. The Southeast Asian city’s former civil defense chief is fighting charges of trading contracts for sex.
The criminal case is Public Prosecutor v Buergin Juerg. DAC13762/2012. Singapore Subordinate Courts.