SINGAPORE - It was close to 5am on Wednesday (May 17) at Jalan Besar Road and all was quiet, save for a flurry of activity in the lobby of a hotel.
A police raid was underway.
A few plainclothes officers stood in the reception checking the guest list while their colleagues interviewed customers. More officers were upstairs, combing most of the 70 rooms.
A distant thumping of doors could be heard coming from the upper floors.
More than an hour later, 23 women and a man were arrested, for their alleged involvement in vice activities, under the Women’s Charter.
All are believed to be sex workers.
The police said that those involved had allegedly made use of their stay in Singapore on valid social visit passes to commit vice-related offences.
Preliminary investigations showed that they had been advertising their sexual services on online platforms and vice websites.
Potential customers could book their services through mobile phone numbers or email addresses provided.
The Straits Times understands that those arrested are mostly Thai nationals, aged between 20 and 33. The man who was nabbed is transgender.
When The Straits Times visited two of the rooms where the women had been rounded up in small groups by the police on Wednesday, the women were handcuffed to one another. They hid their faces from the media.
Condoms and lubricant were among the items found in the rooms.
Some of those nabbed were believed to be with their clients when the authorities arrived.
There were also signs of forced entry on at least one door, following the 6.5-hour police raid involving 36 officers from the Central Division and Criminal Investigation Department.
The 24 people caught were led out of the four-storey hotel at close to 6.30am, and taken away in four unmarked vehicles.
The police said it will continue to clamp down on criminal activities. Those who engage in them will be dealt with “sternly in accordance with the law”.
They added that any person is the tenant, lessee, occupier or person in charge of a brothel, or is found keeping, managing or assisting in its management may be fined up to $10,000 and jailed up to five years.
Any person who knowingly lives wholly or in part on the earnings of the prostitution of another person, may also be jailed up to five years and fined up to $10,000.