Mr Patrick Tay Teck Guan: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) for each year in the past five years, what is the number of prosecutions involving the operation of illegal brothels; (b) what is being done to detect and eradicate such illegal activities in our HDB heartlands; and (c) whether the Ministry is strengthening its response and enhancing punishments for those prosecuted for abetting or committing such offences.
Over the past five years, Police have arrested 790 persons for abetting vice activities such as operating illegal brothels. About 12% of these offenders were involved in illegal brothels in HDB flats. An offender convicted of managing a brothel under the Women's Charter faces a fine of up to $10,000, or up to five years' imprisonment, or both.
2. In cases where Police have received complaints and detected brothels in HDB flats, Police will also investigate the owner of the flat. If the owner is complicit in the vice activities, he will also face prosecution under the Women's Charter. If the owner is not complicit, Police may serve a notice on him, which would allow him to be prosecuted if his flat is used for vice activities a second time. The Police will also notify the Housing Development Board, who will take stern action if the flat owner is found to have misused his flat, including imposition of fines, compulsory acquisition and debarment from buying another HDB flat. These actions against the flat owner create a strong deterrence and Police have not seen the same HDB flats being used for vice activities twice. The Police advise HDB flat owners to ensure that their tenants are not using their flats for illegal activities.
3. Brothels in HDB flats typically rely on the internet to advertise their services. The Women's Charter was amended last year to tackle online vice. A new offence was created to criminalise the operating or maintaining in Singapore of any website or other remote communication service that offers or facilitates the provision of sexual services in return for payment. In May this year, the first person was convicted of this offence. He hosted advertisements for 12 sex workers on a website, and was sentenced to two years' imprisonment and a fine of $83,000. Police also disrupt online vice by terminating the phone numbers used for the activity and blocking their websites.