SINGAPORE — A German citizen who was found guilty of promoting commercial sex with underage girls in the Philippines to undercover Singapore policemen was on Friday (6 September) jailed for five-and-a-half years.
Michael Frank Hartung, a 48-year-old Singapore permanent resident who is currently unemployed, was convicted in July after a 20-day trial in the State Courts. He had been caught in the act by the undercover officers who posed as prospective customers.
The former banking executive, who is married to a Chinese national and has a five-year-old daughter, intends to appeal against conviction and sentence. His lawyer told the court that Hartung intends to represent himself at the High Court.
Aside from the two charges he was convicted of - for distributing information on the promotion of commercial sex with under-18 minors in the Philippines - Hartung still faces four counts relating to having obscene films and films without a valid licence.
Hartung met two undercover policemen in 2015 at Starbucks in Raffles City Shopping Centre and promoted commercial sex with minors to them.
He later met another two undercover officers at a pub along Mackenzie Road in 2016 for the same purpose. Unbeknownst to Hartung, this meeting was recorded.
Prior to the meetings, Hartung communicated with the officers about arranging for the sex tours.
At the Raffles City Starbucks on 26 September 2015, Hartung told the two officers that he could travel to Manila in advance to prepare for their arrival. He also promised to arrange for six virgin girls between 14 and 16 years old to accompany them in Manila.
At his trial, Hartung claimed that he wanted “play along” with the officers so as not to offend them. He also alleged that he wanted to meet the officers to seek legitimate business opportunities.
And he claimed that he gave the cops information about the sex service in a bid to get out of the meeting.
Hartung, who lost his job and annual income of $250,000 after he was charged in relation to the case, also alleged that there was a police conspiracy against him.
But the prosecution argued that instead of being “an innocent bystander caught in the fray”, Hartung actively “sought illicit business opportunities” for the officers posing as customers.
District Judge Ng Cheng Thiam didn’t buy Hartung’s defence and noted that his testimony was inconsistent with his actions. For instance, the German continued to exchange messages with the undercover officers after the Starbucks meeting.
For distributing information that promotes commercial sex tours for minors outside of Singapore, Hartung could have been jailed for up to 10 years and also fined per charge.