(Story updated 27/6/2012 with guilty plea)
Prominent green activist Howard Shaw pleaded guilty on Wednesday morning to paying for sex with an underaged prostitute.
Shaw, 41, arrived in court with his wife Jessie, 26, by his side.
In court, his lawyer Mr Harpreet Singh argued that Shaw had made an "honest and reasonable mistake."
He said that there was "no pre-meditation nor intention" as the offence was committed "unwittingly" and called for a non-custodial sentence.
The district judge adjourned the case for further mention to July 30th and Shaw is expected to receive his sentence then.
Shaw, the former Singapore Environment Council (SEC) executive director, was among 48 men charged with paying the girl between $450 to $850 for sex, between September 2010 and February last year. She is now above 18 but her identity remains protected by a court gag order.
Shaw faces a solitary charge under section 376B of the Penal Code, which states that it is an “absolute liability offence” under Singapore law.
This means Shaw faces a maximum sentence of seven years in jail and a fine.
Indonesian Wilson Oei, 25, and manager Chiang Meng Chuan, 31, also pleaded guilty on Wednesday to having paid sex with an underage prostitute.
It is said that the website advertising her services had stated she was above 18, and that her alleged pimp Tang Boon Thiew had also given clients this assurance.
Given the circumstances, Shaw's lawyers argued that the court’s decision on the points raised will have “significant ramifications” not just for Shaw, but for all the other men charged with the same offences, or those who may face such a charge under this section, or related sections, of the Penal Code in future.
Meanwhile, the former executive director of operations at UBS Investment Bank, Juerg Bergin, who has been charged with two counts of having paid sex with the same girl, will contest his charges.
His lawyer, Selva K. Naidu, told reporters outside the Subordinate Courts on Monday afternoon that his client, who is out on a $15,000 bail, is doing “reasonably okay”.
The 40-year-old Swiss national will next appear in court on 3 July.
The former principal of Pei Chun Public School, Lee Lip Hong, 39, was the first man to be convicted in this high-profile online vice-ring case. He was sentenced to nine weeks’ jail but released after six weeks for good behaviour.
Three other men -- Pyi Kyaw Han, 31, Louis Lee Lip Kian, 33, and Chiang Meng Chuan, 31 – said through their lawyers earlier in June they will admit to paying for sex with the same prostitute.
Their court dates have been set for next week and in July.