On 9 January 2020, a 31-year-old man was found guilty of assisting in operating the online server for a vice website, known as ‘laksaboy’.
Sometime in 2017, the Specialised Crime Branch (SCB) of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Singapore commenced investigations into a vice syndicate after receiving information about the ‘laksaboy’ website. On 20 July 2017, their investigations led to the arrest of the Accused along with 3 other people who ran or aided in the running of the website and/or syndicate, as well as 17 Thai prostitutes.
‘Laksaboy’ is a website that hosts forums and banners advertising sexual services provided by female escorts of various nationalities in Singapore. It was started in 2012. In 2015, the founder began to buy similar domain names which he could use in case the main website got blocked by the authorities.
The Accused was found to have aided in operating ‘laksaboy’ in Singapore via a remote communication service (outside of Singapore) from 1 July 2016 and 20 July 2017. The founder previously approached the Accused through a mutual friend, to assist in ‘laksaboy’s website design and technical issues. He eventually helped the founder secure a faster and better server through which to run ‘laksaboy’ from.
In the Accused’s defence mitigation, his solicitor, Ms Beverly Lim, argued that he had no direct contact with the vice syndicates whatsoever. He had a low culpability as he performed limited functions and had also only done so under the directions of the founder. His only involvement was assisting to host and maintain ‘laksaboy’s server. His genuine remorse, co-operation with the authorities and the fact that he was an only child were amongst other mitigating factors brought up for the Court’s consideration.
The Prosecution sought at least a 5-month imprisonment for the Accused and the maximum fine of S$3,000 to be imposed. In its oral address on sentence, the Prosecution highlighted as follows:
‘We must resist the temptation of downplaying or trivializing the Accused’s role in the operation as merely providing some web support services. The role of providing and maintaining an online platform for vice activities is a critical part of the operation. In fact, the very provision under which the Accused is charged, section 146A, was enacted indirect recognition of the ability of online platforms to expand the reach of vice syndicates.’
Their main argument was that the Accused’s assistance, however minimal, facilitated the provision of sexual services by multiple vice syndicates, and by hosting the server overseas, he made it more difficult for law enforcement to trace the vice syndicates, thereby aiding in and abetting its illegality.
The Accused was sentenced to 4 months in prison and the maximum fine of S$3,000. Under section 146A(1)(a) of the Women’s Charter (Cap 353), read with section 109 of the Penal Code (Cap 224), he could have faced an imprisonment term of up to 3 years.