Boss of vice syndicate jailed 15 months, fined $42,000

They kept 26 Filipino women under lock and key in a Balestier apartment during the day and worked them as hostesses and prostitutes in a pub in Orchard Towers at night. On Friday, a district court sentenced the pub owner, Ang Boon Kwee, 43, to 15 months in jail and a $42,000 fine. His operations manager, Loh Wen Jun, 24, was jailed for 10 months. She was in charge of the Filipino women.

Both pleaded guilty on Wednesday to conspiring and procuring prostitutes, living on immoral earnings and managing a brothel. The pub's floor manager and bar manager were fined $22,000 each in May for abetment.

In the raid of the pub in May last year, police arrested 26 Filipino women working as hostesses. They would encourage customers to buy "lady" drinks for them. Prices ranged from $30 to $120 for each drink - for every $10, the women would earn $3.

Police investigations revealed that 15 of the women also provided sexual services to earn more money - keeping half of what they were paid. They offered oral sex in the pub's three karaoke rooms at a cost of $182. If a customer wanted to have sex, he would have to pay the pub $268 for two hours of the woman's company.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Joshua Lai said that Ang had operated a brothel "disguised as a legitimate pub business" and had pocketed the "substantial amount of $60,000 from the economic exploitation of the Filipino women".

In reply, defence counsel Subhas Anandan pointed out that pub had operated for more than two years so $60,000 would mean a mere $80 a day. He also said that the women were not coerced into prostitution as "they had come here knowing what was expected of them".