A husband and a wife made almost $650,000 over a few years from running a website which advertised the sexual services of various vice operators, using the money for living expenses and even to buy a car.
On Friday (17 November), Liu Chin Guan, 36, and Angela Lim Xiuyan, 32, pleaded guilty to 10 and four charges respectively of abetting by intentionally aiding in living off the earnings of prostitution.
Eleven additional charges were taken into consideration for Liu, an e-commerce businessman, and 17 charges for Lim, a housewife.
The court heard that Liu’s uncle, Sunny Liu, had engaged a designer to create a website advertising sexual services in 2011.
He then approached Liu to be one of the website administrators. After some time, Sunny Liu went missing, and Liu took over the running of the website.
According to court documents, Liu “actively advertised” the website on various popular vice forums as a platform, trying to get vice operators to advertise the sexual services of their prostitutes on his website.
Liu charged the vice operators $300 per month to advertise.
To prevent his identity from being associated with the website, Liu also paid a Thai national $1,000 to open a local bank account where the vice operators deposited payment for the advertisements.
On Liu’s instructions, his wife regularly withdrew money from the account and sometimes liaised with potential advertisers for the site.
The couple used proceeds from the website for living expenses and to purchase a Volkswagen Golf car.
“Website instrumental in function of vice activities”: Prosecution
A total of 17 vice operators advertised on the website. Investigations revealed that two vice operators who had advertised their services via the website paid the couple fees of between $300 to $500 per month from prostitution earnings.
The website was in operation from some time in 2011 and ran until the couple was caught by law enforcement in May 2016.
Deputy Public Prosecutor James Chew asked for a total sentence of 24 months’ jail and a $100,000 fine for Liu, saying that Liu ran a “large scale enterprise” and that the period of offending was long.
“The function that this website plays is instrumental in the function of vice activities and vice syndicates,” said Chew. He added that vice operations on the internet are difficult to enforce and detect, and the amount of profits – a total of $636,737.41 – was large.
Chew also pointed out that the $100,000 fine the prosecution was asking for did not come close to the amount Liu made from the advertising services.
The prosecution conceded that Lim played a more limited role in the website operations, as she acted only under the directions of her husband when asked to withdraw monies from the bank account, or upload advertisers’ content to the website. Chew asked for jail term of 10 months and a fine of $40,000 for Lim.
In mitigation, the couple’s lawyer Shaneet Rai said that Liu was “second removed” from the operations of the vice operators and prostitutes, and had no contact with them.
Rai also said that Liu was not involved in the procurement of prostitutes or premises, and there was no use of residential property involved.
Regarding Lim’s involvement in the enterprise, Rai highlighted Lim’s psychiatric report which said that she had a “timid” personality and deferred to her husband for decision-making.
Rai asked for an 18 month jail term for Liu, and up to three months’ jail for Lim. Both have no previous convictions.
Liu kept his head bowed throughout the proceedings while his wife held his hand.
The couple will be sentenced on 9 January 2018. They are out on $15,000 bail each.
The maximum penalty for living off the earnings of prostitution is a jail term of up to five years and a fine of up to $10,000.
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