School principal, top civil servants among 80 involved in online vice probe: reports

(UPDATED 12 Feb, 1145am, adding reax, details)

A former principal at a top school and several senior civil servants have been called up as part of a major police probe into an online prostitution ring, local media said.

Up to 80 people are assisting police in their investigations, reported The Straits Times.

The ex-principal and top civil servants, all from various government departments, have since stepped down from their posts, reported Chinese daily Shin Min Daily News.

The paper reported that they were implicated when police carried out an island-wide raid against the vice syndicate in late December.

A list that revealed the names of the syndicate's clients were among the items that were seized during the police raids. It was also reported that the syndicate operated a call centre out of Bukit Timah and specialised in Korean girls.

The former school principal in question is believed to be in his 30s, and married with a son. He is also known within the sporting industry and was an official with a national youth team, reported The Straits Times. He is also said to have abruptly quit his school post in December.

A former scholarship recipient is also believed to be among the 80 people involved, said another Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao.

Police have so far declined to reveal further details on the investigation.

Late last December, police conducted an island-wide operation to bust an online vice syndicate.

Around 23 people were apprehended during the eight-hour raid. Items such as cash, laptops, bank books, ATM cards and transaction records were seized.

At the same time, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) is also currently investigating the alleged misconduct by top public officials Peter Lim and Ng Boon Gay.

Lim is the ex-Singapore Civil Defence Force Commissioner while Ng used to lead the Central Narcotics Bureau.

Public reaction to the latest investigation has been mixed.

Jon Ng commented on Yahoo! Singapore's Facebook page that "Civil service personnel (are) also human beings and susceptible to temptation and lust."

Cleavan Yan said the latest case involved "human weakness" that had nothing to do with profession. "Whether it's legal or not, human right violation it not involved," he wrote.

In Singapore, prostitution or hiring the services of a prostitute is not illegal but trafficking, soliciting and living off the earnings of one is.

Meanwhile Sean Ho called for more transparency and commented that the latest investigation could be "just the tip of the iceberg".

"I think we are just scratching the surface here. Let's hope there is transparency so that our taxpayers' monies are going into the pockets of the real servants of Singapore," he wrote.

NUS political science lecturer Dr Reuben Wong said, "We don't know who the public servants are, how senior they are, or how they are involved."

"We live in strange times. Many governments allow and tax prostitution, but will not tolerate any unlicensed syndicates," Dr Wong said.

This case reminded him of Eliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York, who lost his job after patronizing prostitutes from a prostitution ring.

"We do not have enough information to say whether the cases are similar," Dr Wong added.