Saudi Arabian diplomat convicted of molesting and using criminal force on hotel intern

Bander Yahya A. Alzahrani, 39, was convicted on Wednesday (Feb 1) of wrongfully restraining a young intern while molesting her twice and of using criminal force on her.
Bander Yahya A. Alzahrani, 39, was convicted on Wednesday (Feb 1) of wrongfully restraining a young intern while molesting her twice and of using criminal force on her. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A married Saudi Arabian diplomat was convicted on Wednesday (Feb 1) of wrongfully restraining a young hotel intern while molesting her twice and of using criminal force on her.

Bander Yahya A. Alzahrani, 39, who is attached to the Saudi Arabia embassy in Beijing, China, was found guilty of kissing the 20-year-old on her neck and hugging her while wrongfully restraining her inside a hotel room in Sentosa on Aug 14.

He was also found guilty, after an eight-day trial, of kissing the victim's neck a second time, touching her improperly and forcing her to touch him in return.

The father of three was in Singapore for a holiday with his family at the time.

In her brief oral grounds, District Judge Lee Poh Choo found the victim to be an "unusually convincing" witness, and her evidence consistent and sufficiently corroborated.

Being young, naive and anxious to do well in her internship, she was keen to leave a good impression and hoped to be employed by the hotel, she said.

"I believe this partly explained her mantra that she cannot offend the guest and hence her conduct on Aug 14, 2016," she said.

"This was also her first encounter of such an incident causing her to be confused, lost, not knowing what to do and being very embarrassed."

The victim's account of what happened in the room had to be "dragged out" from her after hours of cajoling, she added. The victim demonstrated her version of events to various people at different times that day.

She found Alzahrani not to be a credible witness, and not forthcoming during investigations. She said it was at a late stage that he came up with the explanation that the victim stumbled and fell towards him so he placed his hands on her back to support her.

She agreed with Deputy Public Prosecutors April Phang and Kenny Yang that there was no truth in the defence that the victim conspired with other staff to bring these false allegations against Alzahrani to extort money from the rich Saudi Arabian diplomat.

The case has been adjourned to Friday for defence counsel Shashi Nathan, Tania Chin and Marianne Chew to present their mitigation plea.

Alzahrani, who is out on $20,000 bail, could be jailed for up to 10 years and caned on each charge of molestation; and up to three months and/or fined up to $1,500 for using criminal force.

It is believed that Alzahrani was not accorded diplomatic immunity as the offences were not committed in the country of his posting.