Saudi Arabian diplomat convicted for kissing Sentosa hotel intern's neck and placing her hand against his groin

Elena Chong
The Straits Times
Feb 1, 2017

A married Saudi Arabian diplomat was convicted on Wednesday (Feb 1) of wrongfully restraining a young intern while molesting her twice and of using criminal force on her.

Bander Yahya A. Alzahrani, 39, who is attached to the Saudi Arabia embassy in Beijing, China, was found guilty of kissing the 20-year-old on her neck and hugging her while wrongfully restraining her inside a hotel room in Sentosa on Aug 14.

The father of three was also found guilty, after an eight-day trial, of kissing the victim's neck a second time and rubbing himself against her while hugging her; and grabbing her hand and forcing it against his groin.

He was in Singapore for a holiday with his family at the time.

In her brief oral grounds, District Judge Lee Poh Choo found the victim to be an "unusually convincing" witness, and her evidence consistent and sufficiently corroborated.

Being young, naive and anxious to do well in her internship, she was keen to leave a good impression and hoped to be employed by the hotel, she said.

"I believe this partly explained her mantra that she cannot offend the guest and hence her conduct on Aug 14, 2016," she said.

"This was also her first encounter of such an incident causing her to be confused, lost, not knowing what to do and being very embarrassed."

The victim's account of what happened in the room had to be "dragged out" from her after hours of cajoling, she added.

The victim demonstrated her version of events to various people at different times that day.

Judge Lee said she did not take it against the victim who did not shout, call for help or run out of the room as it was obvious that she was "timid" and "new to the real and harsh world".

Neither could the victim be faulted if her statements lacked specifics. This was the first time that such an incident had happened. It was also most unfortunate that male police officers were assigned to interview the victim, she said.

"A pertinent point was also that the victim had no motive to falsely implicate the accused," said Judge Lee.

She found Alzahrani not to be a credible witness, and not forthcoming during investigations. She said it was at a late stage that he came up with the explanation that the victim stumbled and fell towards him so he placed his hands on her back to support her.

She agreed with Deputy Public Prosecutors April Phang and Kenny Yang that there was no truth in the defence that the victim conspired with other staff to bring these false allegations against Alzahrani to extort money from the rich Saudi Arabian diplomat.

The case has been adjourned to Friday for defence counsel Shashi Nathan, Tania Chin and Marianne Chew to present their mitigation plea.

Alzahrani, who is out on $20,000 bail, could be jailed for up to 10 years and caned on each charge of molestation; and up to three months and/or fined up to $1,500 for using criminal force.

The Straits Times

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