A woman who rented out rooms in a People’s Park Complex apartment to two prostitutes and charged them at least six times her standard rental fee was jailed 14 weeks and fined $8,000 on Wednesday (16 May).
Beh Dien Dien, a 44-year-old Singaporean, was found guilty in April of one count of knowingly letting the eighth-floor unit she owned be used as a brothel, and two counts each of living partly on the earnings of prostitutes between November 2015 and March 2016. The three offences, which Beh had contested in a trial, are breaches under the Women’s Charter.
Beh, who is represented by lawyer Patrick Tan Tse Chia, is intending to appeal both the conviction and sentence. She is currently out on $20,000 bail pending her appeal.
Her husband, Chan Kok Poon, who co-owned the unit, had previously pleaded guilty to a similar charge and was fined $3,000 on 21 March last year.
According to court documents, Beh owned a total of four units in People’s Park Complex, two of which she owned – including the one she let out for prostitution activities – and two of which she rented from others for a monthly fee of $3,900 and $5,500.
While Beh did not stay at any of the four units, she used them for investment by renting out a total of 27 rooms to other tenants.
According to the prosecution, Beh rented out two rooms in one of the units she owned to two Chinese prostitutes – Li Hongjuan, 29, who moved in sometime in November 2015, and Xiang Anmei, 26, who moved in on 25 February 2016. The unit had two master bedrooms and four ordinary rooms.
Beh was aware that the two women were plying their trade in her unit but continued to receive rent from them without stopping them. This was despite Beh receiving nine warnings that prostitutes were found working in the unit between September 2014 and 16 January 2015, prior to Li and Xiang moving in. Beh acknowledged and signed off on eight of the nine warnings.
Beh charged Xiang $2,200 a month and Li $3,000 a month. In contrast, she charged another tenant, who was not involved in vice activities, $500 for a non-ensuite room.
In total, she received $8,600 from Xiang and Li during their stay. An estimate showed that while Beh could make a profit of at least $9,200 a month from the rental of the unit, 56 per cent of the earnings came from Xiang and Li.
After Xiang was first arrested for prostituting herself at a unit, Beh moved her to one of her other units instead of chasing her away, said the prosecution. She even got Xiang to ask a man to sign the tenancy agreement on her behalf so that she could distance herself from Xiang should the latter get arrested again.
Both Li and Xiang were arrested on 10 March 2016 for prostituting themselves.
During the trial, the defence presented Beh as a negligent or careless landlord who wasn’t aware of the vice activities happening in the unit. However, the prosecution contended that the argument showed Beh’s “readiness to shift legal and moral culpability away from herself” despite knowing about the prostitutes.
The prosecution, represented from Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Lai, asked for five months’ jail and a $13,500 fine, citing Beh’s premeditated actions and the four-month period of the offences as aggravating factors. He added that People’s Park Complex is a residential property with many children and families and that vice activities may cause “social unease”.
For letting her unit be used as a brothel, Beh could have been jailed up to three years and/or fined $3,000 on a first conviction. For living on a prostitute’s earnings, she could have been jailed up to five years and fined a maximum $10,000.