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Bar owner who harboured and raped 17-year-old runaway gets jail, caning

Bar owner who harboured and raped 17-year-old runaway gets jail, caning

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 09 Jul 2024
Author: Selina Lum

He pressured victim to drink and was aware of her vulnerability owing to intoxicated state.

The owner of a bar in Little India who harboured a 17-year-old runaway and raped her three days later was on July 8 sentenced to 13 years and four weeks’ jail and nine strokes of the cane.

Raj Kumar Bala, 42, was convicted in March on two charges – one each for raping the teenager and for molesting her at his rented condominium unit while she was drunk.

On July 8, he pleaded guilty to a third charge – harbouring the teen by permitting her to stay and work for him, despite knowing she had run away from the Singapore Girls’ Home.

In sentencing, High Court Judge Mavis Chionh said there was a “high degree of sexual exploitation” involved in the rape.

The judge noted that Raj Kumar was not just aware of the victim’s vulnerability owing to her intoxicated state, but he had also taken steps to pressure her to consume alcohol.

Justice Chionh added that he was aware the teenager was on the run, and was dependent on him for money and shelter.

After the sentence was handed down, Raj Kumar’s lawyer, Mr Ramesh Tiwary, said he intends to file an appeal against the conviction.

Mr Tiwary also told the court that his client wished to be released on bail so he can sell his property and business to leave money for his wife and children, help his wife apply for permanent residency, and settle his son into school.

Justice Chionh rejected the bail request, saying that no reason had been shown as to why Raj Kumar must be physically present for these matters.

The bar owner also faces 22 more charges relating to five other victims, mainly for sex offences. These charges are pending in court.

He is accused of raping and molesting a victim identified in court documents as B1; raping and sexually assaulting a victim who was identified as B5; and raping, molesting and threatening another victim, identified as B6.

He is also accused of sexually penetrating a minor under the age of 16, identified as B7; and molesting and causing alarm to another victim, identified as B8.

Raj Kumar had gone on trial in August 2023 for molesting and raping the victim in the current case between the night of Feb 21 and the early morning of Feb 22 in 2020.

He denied the charges and claimed the girl had consented to having sex with him.

But Justice Chionh found him guilty of the two charges on March 28, saying sufficient evidence had been presented by the prosecution to prove that the girl did not consent to the sex acts.

The victim had gone to the Dunlop Street bar for a job interview on Feb 18, 2020, about two weeks after she absconded from the home.

Raj Kumar hired her and told her that she could stay at the bar with two other runaways.

On the night of Feb 21, 2020, the bar was raided by the police after an acquaintance of the runaways made a report that they were working there.

Raj Kumar drove the three runaways to his condo and told them they could stay there.

He drank with the girls, and the victim became heavily intoxicated.

He ended up having sex with the victim and also engaged in sex acts with another girl – the alleged victim identified as B1 – on the second floor of the unit.

The third girl remained on the first floor.

The victim left the condo later that day. She stayed with a friend and told him about the rape two to three weeks later.

Source: Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

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