SINGAPORE - Rupee St James- which bills itself as a Bollywood gentlemen's club - has become the first nightspot to be suspended under laws for public entertainment that were tightened in August.
Police said that a vice syndicate had been using the club at St James Power Station along Sentosa Gateway to "operate and provide sexual services" - with clients booking the services of women via the management of the club for fees ranging between $500 and $1,000.
The Criminal Investigation Department and Clementi Police Division raided the club on Monday last week (Dec 4) and arrested nine women and two men, aged between 21 to 54, for suspected involvement in vice activities.
The Straits Times understands that one of the men arrested is the director of the company that owns the club.
The club's Public Entertainment Licence was suspended from Dec 8 but an announcement on Rupee St James' Facebook page on Dec 8 said it was closed until Dec 31 for upgrading works. It also said the club was open for private event bookings.
The Public Entertainments Act was revised in August with changes that included tighter regulations to prevent "unsuitable persons or businesses" from operating public entertainment outlets and harsher penalties for errant establishments.
The Straits Times visited the club in October based on a tip-off from a regular patron who alleged that money for sexual services would be paid at the bar counter. He said he had seen this happen at least a few times a week and there were regular customers who paid up to $3,000 to take two or three women out at the same time.
He added that the women were brought into Singapore through agents in their home countries.
At the club, women could be seen going table to table, chatting and drinking with the mostly-male clientele.
If a customer bought enough drinks, starting from $50 for a glass of wine, or was seen to be generous with his cash, the women offer to have a "relationship" with him.
The women, some dressed in Indian traditional clothes and others in jeans and casual tops, said they stayed in Singapore for about six months as dancers at the club to earn money for their families back home.
Records from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority list Mr Manmeet Singh as director of Club 989, the company that owns Rupee.
When contacted, the 38-year-old confirmed that there was a raid last week but denied allegations that the the club management facilitated vice activities.
"There was an accusation that the club was used as a platform for immoral activities to be communicated. We do not condone such activities, if such a thing has happened it is beyond our knowledge," he said.
He added that if such services occurred, "they are between the girl and the client and happen after working hours".
In response to questions about the money that was seen paid at the bar for the alleged sexual services, he said it was common for patrons to give tips ranging from $100 to $2,000 to the entertainers through the bar.
He added that he had voluntarily accompanied the police to the station after the raid and is assisting in investigations.
Under the Public Entertainments Act, a licence may be suspended or cancelled if the licensee is no longer a fit and proper person to hold such a licence.
ST understands the suspension is indefinite until the case is heard in court, and investigations are still ongoing.
Under the Women's Charter, any person who knowingly lives wholly or in part on the earnings of the prostitution of another person is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years and to a fine not exceeding $10,000.