Monday, August 3, 2009

FEEDING FRENZY as buayas rise to boy bait

New Paper
03 August 2009

Reporter posing as 14-year-old boy online gets swamped with sex offers within seconds

FEEDING FRENZY as buayas rise to boy bait

By Special Correspondent

FOUR men were named and shamed and are being punished for performing obscene acts with an underaged boy. The cases of two others are coming up.

The New Paper reported this on Wednesday. That night, a reporter of the paper went online, posing as a 14-year-old boy seeking an older friend.

This was on the same gay website used by the six men to meet the 15-year-old involved.

So, did the court case make users of the website wary?

Not at all, going by this test.

Within 10 seconds, The New Paper reporter's computer screen was flooded with offers of sex.

There were so many pop-up windows of conversation that the reporter could not cope with the volume of men eager to meet the 'teen'.

In all, about 50 individuals got in touch within a five-hour period, spread over two days.

When the teen said he wanted to buy a new handphone, the buayas (sex predators) were quick to offer money, in exchange for sex acts.

Were they concerned that their target was underaged?

Their only concern was over keeping it quiet. You cannot tell anybody, they insisted.

No one warned the teen off the website, or tell him he was too young to be there.

One, just one, seemed to have a change of heart. This person too had started out like all the others, but after chatting for a while, said sex would be illegal and offered to give the teen $50 or a used handphone, if that was all he wanted.

Of course, the others were willing to hand over cash as well, and much more. But they all wanted sex.

The ages they gave ranged from 18 to 59, and they wanted to find out the boy's height, weight, race and something about his looks.

Some were more direct and asked: 'How much?'

They even came out with what could be incriminating information.

Two of them said they already had sex with boys as young as 14, when asked if they had any prior experience.

One man, who claimed he was a 35-year-old named Jackson, wanted to go beyond paying the teen to service him. He asked about younger siblings.

After finding out that the teen had younger brothers aged 9 and 7 (invented as bait), he offered $200 in total to perform lewd acts on them.

Did the predators know they would be committing an offence?

They all acknowledged that the acts suggested were against the law. They then told the teen to be 'discreet'.

The offers ranged from $30 to $350 for sex with the 14-year-old.

One person wanted the boy to 'pleasure him' while he took photographs. He was willing to pay $100.

Two others offered their handphones as payment for being pleasured.

One wanted to set the 14-year-old up with a 35-year-old man and was ready to pay $350.

He claimed to be a 32-year-old man, and left his handphone number and name as Roy.

For that amount, he wanted the boy to stay with him for a week at a hotel.

Online talk is one thing, but would they go further and meet their prey face to face?

The New Paper reporter posing as a teen set up meetings with four men.

They were to meet outside Toa Payoh Stadium on Thursday. All four turned up.

One man even waited for hours. (See report on facing page.)

Apparently, most of them wanted a quick deal.

While still online, many had asked to meet the same night, offering to drive by and pick the boy up, though it was 11pm.

Later, all agreed to meet a day or two afterwards, but only after much reassurance that they would not be let down.

When it came to the location, they were not as picky.

Some offered their cars and homes, while others asked if the boy's place was available.

The one who wanted to engage in sexual activities with the 14, 9 and 7-year-olds even asked if the boys' parents would be out another day.

When crocs feed on small prey, their hunger knows no bound, it seems.

What nerve! They show up in public place for prey

WOULD men who prey on boys online go so far as to meet them in public?

Yes, they would, going by the mini test done by The New Paper on Sunday.

After chatting with a reporter posing as a teen, the four men were individually asked to meet the boy at Toa Payoh Stadium at different times.

Each was told to carry a newspaper in their hands as an identifier. One insisted on bringing a magazine instead.

The reporter waited at a distance to observe the men at the appointed times.

Each of the four arrived at the appointed time, with the newspaper or magazine in hand.

They had not been shown any pictures of their prey - 'a 14-year-old boy'.

Nor did they have his contact number. All they had was his e-mail.

Yet, one of them waited for almost 11/2 hours, while the reporter watched discreetly from a distance.

No direct contact was made with any of the buayas (crocodiles in Malay and slang for sex predators) for safety reasons.

Two of the buayas appeared to be in their 20s, while one was in his 30s. Another looked in his 40s.

The highest bidder

The first appeared around 2.30pm.

The man, the oldest among those who turned up, held a folded newspaper in his hands and walked quickly into Toa Payoh Stadium, while surveying the people sitting near the entrance.

He wore khaki-coloured pants which had been rolled up to his ankles, a white polo T-shirt and slippers.

About 15 minutes later, he dashed out of the stadium, looking around anxiously as though expecting someone to pounce on him.

In his webchats, he had asked us to call him Henri.

He had also made the highest offer.

'If you can make me very happy, I'll give you $300,' he said.

The longest wait

The second man seemed the most desperate of the lot. He waited for 1 1/2 hours for his prey to turn up.

The man, who called himself Dave, aged 35, was 15 minutes late for his appointment.

During the previous day's chat, he had given the reporter posing as a boy his handphone number.

When he could not be spotted in the crowd, the reporter called him.

He was very well-spoken. He confirmed he had arrived and was standing beside his car as agreed, in a white T-shirt and grey shorts.

The man standing beside the silver car was chubby and looked nervous. At first he just stood there, apparently looking out for the schoolboy.

Then he moved to higher ground, craning his neck as though in search of something. When he got bored, he read a newspaper. Later, he lit a cigarette.

It was close to 5pm when he finally drove off, and even then his eyes continued to rove.

The double show

The third man, who claimed to be in his 20s, circled the area three times, before leaving.

All the while, his eyes seemed to be peeled for the young boy he had agreed to meet.

Later that night, the reporter received four e-mails from this man, expressing both disappointment and anger at the no-show.

He was told that another meeting would not be arranged as his reluctance to give a contact number made it easy for the 'boy' to be stood up.

The persistent man quickly gave his handphone number and MSN address.

All this took place via e-mail.

A meeting was arranged for the next day, at 4.45pm, and the man did as instructed - he turned up and lurked around, again without a newspaper.

The one from school

The last man, called Steve, went by the nickname 'ampm', and claimed to be a 23-year-old.

Our meeting had been arranged at 6.30pm.

He said he did not want to be late as he was coming from school.

Wearing white sneakers, jeans and a blue short-sleeve shirt, he walked around for 10 minutes before pulling a magazine out of his black backpack.

He then sat on the concrete bench outside the stadium for five minutes before making a call and walking off.

Later, he too sent an e-mail saying he had waited in vain.


How should the law deal with cyber buayas? Trap them or...


THEY are lurking in our midst, ready to pounce on young victims.
By Zaihan Mohamed Yusof

03 August 2009

THEY are lurking in our midst, ready to pounce on young victims.

In one case earlier this week, six men were caught for having paid sex with a 15-year-old boy.

The New Paper on Sunday's test revealed many more potential buayas (crocodiles in Malay and slang for sex predators) who hunt in cyberspace.

If they lay their hands on their victims, they could face up to two year's jail or pay a fine of up to $5,000 for committing obscene acts under the Children and Young Persons Act.

But can such acts be prevented in the first place?

Such buayas operate brazenly in Internet chatrooms, and it did not take much to flush them out with a one-line proposition.

To keep buayas at bay, two experts say urgent action is needed.

Mr John Shaznell from the Association of Telecommunication Industry of Singapore believes the predator's activities should be exposed to the authorities the moment he suggests a lewd act to a child.

Added Mr Shaznell, a Briton: 'It's a preventive measure that would deter potential harm from befalling underaged children.'

There are laws in place to protect minors in such instances. One, in particular, involves the offence of sexual grooming.

The law, introduced in 2007, states that a person above 21 is liable for the offence when he 'intentionally meets or travels to meet a minor with the intention of committing a sexual offence with the minor'.

The accused must also 'have met or communicated with the minor on at least two prior occasions'.

A person found guilty of sexual grooming may be fined and jailed for up to three years.

Change the law

Lawyer Satwant Singh believes the law needs to be amended to address the issue of Internet predators.

He said offenders should be punished if it can be proven from chatroom transcripts that they had enticed children to perform immoral acts.

In other words, don't wait for the predator to meet the child before acting.

'At the first meeting with the child, he could have sex with the child. We shouldn't wait for a sexual predator to destroy a child's life,' Mr Singh said.

'If we catch the instigator early, then we would be able to prevent the crime from taking place.'

While evidence to prove sexual grooming may be hard to collect, it is not impossible, said Mr Singh.

Evidence might include chatroom transcripts, the presence of pornography, or even a camera that is used to photograph the lewd acts if it is found on the culprit, when he meets or travels to meet the minor.

In Australia, a sexual predator can be stopped earlier, said Dr Raymond Choo, a Canberra-based researcher at the Australian Institute of Criminology.

Said Dr Choo, who was with the Singapore Police Force for five years: 'In Australia, the fact that an adult pretends to be a child to establish contact with the victim... can be viewed as an act preliminary to commission of a sexual offence.'

He added there have been a number of cases of children (or undercover law enforcement officers posing as children) having been approached online that have led to prosecution of those responsible in Australia and the United States.

The police do conduct anti-vice raids regularly in the real world. Should more be done in cyberspace as well?

Certainly, more resources will be needed if the authorities try to flush out the buayas through baiting methods.

But one question remains: How do you police the Internet and monitor the many conversations taking place freely in chatrooms?

One problem is that there isn't any particular organisation that is monitoring the predators, said lawyer SBalamurugan.

'The police can monitor but it still relies on a complaint from a victim,' he said.

If trapping the predators poses problems, should more be done to keep them at bay?

'Research on this topic is relatively new,' said Dr Choo.

Deterrent jail terms

'An interesting area of research is whether heavier custodial sentences are disincentives to engaging in online child grooming offences.'

Mr Poh Yeang Cherng, the manager of Touch Cyber Wellness & Sports said ultimately parents need to be educated on how to teach their children to protect themselves on the Internet.

He added: 'If parents are not aware of the content and values propagated through certain websites and channels, they will not be able to protect their younger children from it.'

Children, who may be unwilling to alert the police, can turn to websites like the Virtual Global Task Force, which consists of police forces from around the world working together to fight online child abuse.


1 Internet chat

In Singapore this is still considered harmless.

But if the conversation takes on a suggestive nature, this could be used as evidence under the requirements of the sexual grooming offence.

In Australia, lewd acts proposed by an adult online can result in prosecution.

2 Meeting the minor

In Singapore, meeting or communicating with the minor 'on at least two prior occasions' can amount to sexual grooming, which carries a fine and a jail term of up to three years.

In Australia, face-to-face meetings, either actual or planned, may be enough to prosecute the offender.

3 Sexual act

If cyber chatting leads to sex with a minor, this would be in violation of Section 376B here.

The adult can be jailed up to seven years or fined, or both, when he obtains the sexual services of a person under 18years of age.

In the US, a man was sentenced to 280 months, because as a registered sex offender, he had enticed a 13-year-old girl he met online to engage in sex acts.

4 Pimping

In Singapore, when a minor has been used by an adult to sell sexual favours, the adult would have committed an offence under the Women's Charter, by living off the earnings of a prostitute.

Those guilty can be jailed up to five years, fined up to $10,000, or both.

In the US, coercing a minor to engage in commercial sex acts is an offence, carrying a fine and jail of not less than 15years or for life.

5 Trafficking

When somebody engages in the trafficking of women and girls, whether for sex or not, he can be jailed not more than five years and fined not more than $10,000.

In the US, the offence of trafficking a minor for the sole purpose of sexual activity carries a penalty of fine or jail term of not more than 30 years, or both.

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