Ex-bank executive found guilty of sharing information to promote child sex activities

German national Michael Frank Hartung is now out on bail of $15,000 and is expected to be sentenced on Aug 15.
German national Michael Frank Hartung is now out on bail of $15,000 and is expected to be sentenced on Aug 15.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A senior bank executive formerly with Deutsche Bank met up with four other men in Singapore and shared with them information to promote child sex activities in the Philippines.

German national Michael Frank Hartung, who used to earn $250,000 a year, was unaware that the other men were undercover police officers.

After a trial of more than 20 days, District Judge Ng Cheng Thiam on Friday (July 12) found the 48-year-old Singapore permanent resident guilty of two counts of distributing such information to the men, identified only as Michael, Jackson, Paul and Frank.

Their real names were not revealed in court documents.

In giving his verdict, the judge said that the messages that Hartung had sent were "very revealing" and "incriminating of (his) conduct".

Deputy Public Prosecutor Marshall Lim told the court during the trial that in April 2015, Singapore police received information that Hartung was suspected of being involved in "deviant sexual activities".

Officers then planned an undercover operation as part of investigations.

 
 

The court heard that Jackson began communicating with Hartung through the Yahoo online messaging service two months later.

In their submissions, DPPs Lim and Andre Ong stated that Jackson told Hartung that he wanted to go overseas for a "low-profile" tour to engage in commercial sex with girls who were "young" and "inexperienced", and asked the German to organise the trip.

The DPPs added: "Jackson wanted the said tour to be 'safe' and secretive, and requested at least three girls to last for three nights of the five-day-four-night tour. He also requested for virgins.

"Eventually, he asked for girls between 15 and 16 years old whom he would prefer to be virgins and who would stay overnight with him and his friends in their hotel rooms to allow them to 'enjoy' the girls all night."

The court heard that Hartung met Jackson and Michael at a cafe in Raffles City Shopping Centre on Sept 26, 2015, and told the pair that he had access to local contacts in the Philippines to facilitate such arrangements.

The DPPs added that Hartung agreed to go to Manila two days before the men were supposed to arrive there to "make sure everything is okay".

The DPPs told Judge Ng that Hartung also said that that he would facilitate arrangements for six virgin girls aged between 14 and 16 to be provided to the men in the Philippines.

Hartung also communicated with a man known as Darkthrone in an online portal for people into bondage, domination and sadomasochism (BDSM), the court heard.

It turned out that Darkthrone was Jackson and on Jan 20, 2016, the German reached out to the undercover policeman to ask him if he was interested in "common and (shared) projects".

The DPPs stated: "Darkthrone broached the subject of wanting to go overseas 'in Asia' to 'try young blood', a jargon, when mentioned within the relevant circle, referred to the engagement of sexual acts and sexual conduct with minors."

The court heard that Hartung replied: "(Definitely) we can share ideas and try young blood."

Darkthrone then told him that he "liked young blood between 14 and 18" and shared his difficulties in finding them in Singapore.

Hartung agreed and commented: "Philippines, Cambodia much easier. But take (some) time to travel."

He then invited Darkthrone to meet for coffee and "share some ideas and (tips)" before meeting Paul and Frank at a Mackenzie Road pub near Little India on April 15, 2016.

The DPPs told the judge: "The accused gave advice on the possible destinations for a sex tour with minors overseas... The accused advised that it would be easier to procure girls within the six to 12-year-old age bracket during such periods."

Hartung also revealed that he had access to a middleman in the Philippines to facilitate the arrangements and shared his personal experience with procuring young girls for sexual services, the court heard.

The DPPs added: "The accused shared that procuring a single minor for sexual services in the Philippines would cost around 10,000 pesos (S$265), with 9,000 pesos being paid to the adult female chaperone, and the remaining 1,000 pesos being paid to the minor herself.

"The accused added that the 'common' or 'normal' price of procuring sexual services from a minor in the Philippines could go as low as 5,000 pesos."

In his defence, Hartung, who is represented by lawyer Mohamed Niroze Idroos, testified during the trial that he was merely "playing along" in the chats on Yahoo and the BDSM website and that he had no intention to plan any tours for the four men.

In their submissions, the DPPs told Judge Ng: "He also wants this court to believe that the information he provided was general information that could easily be obtained from the Internet.

"He claims that he 'played along' and provided the officers with the information because he did not want to offend them."

The prosecutors stressed that Skype chat logs between Hartung and one of his contacts known only as "imelda.parado" proved otherwise.

For instance, in 2015, he had stated: "What age can you get. (They) asked for a virgin around 16. But younger also ok... Let me know... four virgins or 12-16 is request (sic)."

Court documents did not reveal details about "imelda.parado".

Hartung is now out on bail of $15,000 and is expected to be sentenced on Aug 15.

Offenders convicted of distributing information promoting child sex activities can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined for each charge.