5 from S'pore among Sweetie seekers
FIVE adults from Singapore were caught trying to get a virtual 10-year-old Filipino girl to perform sexual acts over webcam.
They were uncovered through a sting operation conducted over 10 weeks by Dutch rights group Terre des Hommes. The aim was to identify child predators.
These adults, like more than 1,000 others, were willing to pay money to the "girl", a computer model called Sweetie, to perform sexual acts.
Responding to queries from My Paper yesterday, a spokesman for the group said its members chatted with the adults to uncover their identities.
"As we were chatting with them, posing as Sweetie, we asked for e-mail addresses, Skype addresses, etc," he said. The individuals were then tracked down through the information they provided.
The group did not provide any other details about these five individuals from Singapore. But it said that the identities of the thousand-odd potential child predators from more than 65 countries uncovered by it are being handed over to Interpol. The international police organisation will share this information with the authorities from the respective countries.
In a report after the operation, the group said that, at any given moment, there are 750,000 child predators connected to the Internet.
It also described such exploitation as a combination of child prostitution and pornography.
The victims of such a trade, termed as "webcam-child-sex tourism", are known to be largely from the Philippines.
Lawyers told My Paper that it is possible that these adults could be taken to task under laws here.
Criminal lawyer Josephus Tan pointed to a law against sexual grooming of minors under 16 years old, which specifies that communication between the perpetrator and victim need not have occurred in Singapore for the former to be punished.
Mr Suppiah Thangaveloo, a criminal lawyer with 28 years of experience, said that it is likely for the adults to be charged under the same law, but that gathering evidence may be a challenge, given that the "victim" is not in Singapore.
Those found guilty of the offence may be jailed for up to three years, fined or both.
The Children and Young Persons Act also has a provision against getting a child or young person to perform an indecent act.
Upon conviction, the culprit faces a maximum fine of $5,000, up to two years in jail or both.
Dr Carol Balhatchet, director of youth services at Singapore's Children's Society, said that those from Singapore who were caught "should definitely be punished".
She said: "They are similar to paedophiles, if they can take advantage of children and find sexual stimulation through young, innocent children."