Rejecting appeal, High Court says ex-banker’s 5.5-year jail term for planning child sex tours ‘clearly on lighter side’
The judge also disagreed with Hartung's request for the sentences to run concurrently instead of consecutively because both charges concerned separate offences that took place at different times.
A former senior Deutsche Bank executive and Singapore permanent resident on Friday (Nov 13) lost his appeal against his conviction and 5.5-year jail sentence for promoting overseas child sex tours.
In dismissing Michael Frank Hartung’s appeal, High Court judge Aedit Abdullah also found that his punishment was “clearly on the lighter side” rather than being excessive. The prosecution had not appealed over the sentence.
The judge stressed on the “the heinous and egregious nature of acts involving the abuse and sexual exploitation of minors”.
“Promoting and facilitating such acts contributes to a deplorable array of evils, and the victims, who are oftentimes coerced into the industry, suffer traumatic and unspeakable harm.
“Miscreants who seek to foist their own deviant sexual tendencies on mere children and abuse them for carnal purposes should be made fully aware that their despicable acts are viewed with the strongest opprobrium,” Justice Aedit added.
After the judge delivered his decision through video-conferencing platform Zoom, Hartung, 49, who appeared from prison, said that he disagreed with it.
“The prosecution and police officers committed a crime… None of these legal arguments are valid, you’re just repeating what police officers said,” Hartung added.
He said that he would wait for the written judgement before formally responding.
A consular officer, who was present in court, spoke to him via Zoom after the hearing ended.
ABOUT THE CASE
After a district court trial, Hartung, who is originally from Germany and married with a young daughter, was found guilty of two charges of distributing information about child sex tours to undercover police officers. They had conducted two undercover operations in 2015.
He told the officers — who posed as “Michael”, “Jackson”, “Paul” and “Frank” — that he would provide them with “young virgin girls”.
He communicated with them through online messaging platforms before meeting them in person.
He also gave them advice, saying that going to Cambodia for sexual services with minors was more dangerous than going to the Philippines.
A second undercover operation was launched after the police found that Hartung was active on an online portal catering to those interested in deviant sexual practices and lifestyles.
Apart from this case, he was sentenced to 12 weeks’ jail earlier this year for possessing 245 obscene films. Ten of them contained child sexual abuse material, with some of the girls involved possibly as young as four years old.
The authorities found his cache at his Simei Green condominium after he was arrested on Aug 30, 2016.
THE JUDGE’S DECISION
In his written judgement, Justice Aedit dismissed Hartung’s argument that “distribution of information”, as specified in the charges, cannot be an offence alone.
Hartung had said that no one was harmed and no follow-up actions occurred.
The judge noted that an offence takes place once someone distributes information with the intention to promote or assist in having commercial sex with minors under 18 outside Singapore.
He said that Hartung clearly provided this information, informing the undercover officers that he would arrange to procure six virgin girls aged 14 to 16 and house them in separate rooms to avoid suspicion.
Hartung, who argued the appeal without a lawyer, also alleged that the undercover officers were unreliable and that their investigations were based on false information.
Justice Aedit rejected this. For instance, Hartung said that any references to minors came only from the officers, but he had referred to minors himself.
During a meeting with two of the officers, he suggested — in reply to their queries — a three-day tour for men with virgin minors, with a travel guide or “companion”.
As for Hartung’s rehashed arguments that he was merely conducting a legitimate business organising tours and was merely playing along with the officers, Justice Aedit agreed with the district court that he had “no innocent reason” to meet the officers “if he was in fact not interested in providing the services requested”.
In terms of the jail term imposed, Hartung asked for his individual sentences to run concurrently instead of consecutively, as well as for lighter sentences.
The judge disagreed because both charges concerned separate offences that took place at different times.
“While (Hartung) was not a full-on commercial operator, he did fall into the middle ground between an ad hoc facilitator and a commercial sex operator,” Justice Aedit said.
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