A Hong Kong woman was jailed for eight months on Wednesday for managing a bar where customers could use HK$20 (US$2.50) coupons to redeem intimate exchanges with Thai women.
Yim Wai-han, 47, had urged undercover officers to purchase the coupons at a bar she ran in Tsim Sha Tsui, the Kowloon City Court heard. She was caught in a string of vice operations police launched between May 6 and June 22 last year.
Police disguised as customers were told by Yim to spend the coupons on a dice game, which determined prizes such as touching the breasts of Thai women at the place. They were also encouraged to reward the women with more coupons.
Yim had earlier pleaded not guilty to five counts of managing a vice establishment.
But Magistrate Joseph To Ho-shing convicted the woman on Wednesday, saying the coupon scheme was merely to shroud evidence of direct payments.
“The coupon system was a [device] to prevent arrest,” he said. “The game of chance was merely a disguise for an opportunity [to touch the women].”
Relying on the use of provision of sex services to enhance sales is akin to depending on the earnings of prostitution
Magistrate Joseph To
The magistrate noted that although there was no sexual intercourse in the case, the mere touching of breasts would amount to the “lewdness” required for criminal sanction.
During the trial, there were complaints that the officers had stayed longer than they needed to gather evidence, while one policeman admitted that he proceeded to act on what the dice game offered.
To acknowledged the difficulty of the operations, saying that surveillance footage showed it took the officers quite some time to wait for evidence to emerge.
The undercover operations were conducted in the lead-up to the Fifa World Cup last year, the trial had heard.
On the first four missions, two officers were greeted by Yim on their arrival at the bar. She claimed to be the manager.
On the first visit, Yim told them to buy the coupons and introduced them to two Thai women, who taught them how to play the dice game.
On the last occasion on June 22, the pair went back with four more colleagues, and Yim arranged for eight Thai women to accompany them. She was arrested later.
In mitigation, defence counsel Oliver Davies said the lack of explicit sexual interactions put Yim at the lower end of the spectrum compared with more serious cases.
To agreed but said he would also take into account the size of the bar operation. The fact that Yim could summon eight Thai women on the spot showed that the business was at least medium-sized, he said.
The magistrate described the gaming scheme as a strategy to make customers stay and spend more money on alcohol. “Relying on the use of provision of sex services to enhance sales is akin to depending on the earnings of prostitution,” he said.
During the operation, 26 Thai women were arrested. Among them, 14 were charged for various offences such as soliciting for an immoral purpose and breaching conditions of stay. They were jailed for two months.