Man first to be convicted under the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act: He groomed and raped underaged girls

Shaffiq Alkhatib
The New Paper
Feb 20, 2016

A girl was abandoned by her mother when she was an infant.

Another had a troubled relationship with her mother and her parents divorced when she was two.

District Judge Mathew Joseph called them "lost children" and Muhammad Khairulanwar Rohmat, now 25, knew that they were in need of money to support themselves.

Instead of helping the girls, who were then 15 and 16 years old, he tricked them into having sex with him and asked them to work in the sex industry. The older teen agreed.

Judge Joseph said: "I note that the accused had groomed, lied to, exploited, personally raped and sexually molested them."

Yesterday, Khairulanwar became the first person to be convicted under the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act (Pohta).

The former Singapore Institute of Management student was jailed six years and three months, and fined $30,000.

He pleaded guilty to three charges under Pohta - two counts of recruiting the minors for sexual exploitation and one of receiving payment from the 16-year-old after she prostituted herself.

Khairulanwar also admitted to one count of sexually penetrating a minor - the 15-year-old - with her consent.

Fourteen other charges, mostly involving six other sex workers between 21 and 25 years old, were taken into consideration.

They included six counts of procuring the women for prostitution and five counts of living off the earnings of prostitution.

He committed the offences between February 2013 and last April.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Chee Min Ping told the court yesterday that the factors in Khairulanwar's case warranted a stiff sentence to reflect "high culpability in sexual exploitation of the young and vulnerable through the use of manipulation".


The maximum penalty for commercial sex with a person below 18 is seven years and a fine.

And penalty for prostitution-related offences under the Women's Charter is up to five years' jail and fine of up to $10,000.

But under Pohta, anyone who recruits, transports, transfers, harbours or receives a child for the purpose of exploitation, whether here or abroad, can be jailed for up to 10 years, fined up to $100,000 and given up to six strokes of the cane.

DPP Chee said that in communicating with the 16-year-old girl, Khairulanwar had used two different personas to "emotionally manipulate her to do his bidding".

On March 15 last year, she saw his online job advertisement which mentioned "drinking and entertaining customers" but not sex work.

When she sent him a text message, Khairulanwar, who called himself "Mrdotdotdot", told her to meet a client in a bar at Cuppage Road.

He then posed as the client and introduced himself as Khai. He told the girl that he could give her better-paying jobs but she would have to provide sexual services.

She turned him down as she was a virgin but was cajoled into giving him oral sex in a male toilet. He took two photos of her performing the act.

DPP Chee said Khairulanwar continued to send the girl text messages using the two personas.

She added: "The accused would use the persona of Mrdotdotdot to intimidate and the persona of Khai to act as a confidante."

As Khai, Khairulanwar told the girl last April that if she wanted Mrdotdotdot and Khai to introduce customers to her, he would have to try out her skills in the bedroom first.

DPP Chee said the girl was "tempted by the offer of remuneration and lured into trusting the accused through the persistently nice persona of Khai".

She agreed to have sex with him in a hotel at Lorong 10 Geylang and he filmed their encounter.

As Khai, he got her to service two customers later that month. She gave him over $50 of her $800 earnings.

Using a similar ruse, Khairulanwar met the 15-year-old girl at a cafe in Orchard on April 15. He told her he would arrange modelling jobs and photo shoots with clients for her but needed to assess her nude body first.

They went to a cubicle in a male toilet where he took three nude photos of her before asking her for oral sex. She complied and they later had unprotected sex.

DPP Chee said: "The victim did not reject the accused's sexual advances in the toilet as she was afraid he would not give her modelling jobs."

After that, Khairulanwar kept sending her text messages, persuading her to become a prostitute. But she soon ceased contact with him.

Khairulanwar was arrested for suspected drug-related offences on April 21.


When Central Narcotics Bureau officers searched his mobile phone, they found messages that showed he was involved in vice activities and referred the case to the Criminal Investigation Department.

DPP Chee urged Judge Joseph to sentence Khairulanwar to up to seven years' jail with a $60,000 fine.

She said: "The accused systematically targeted young and vulnerable victims for his own personal financial gain and carnal pleasure."

Khairulanwar's lawyer, Mr Ferlin Jayatissa, asked for a three-year jail sentence with $10,000 fine, arguing the victims were Singapore residents and were not taken across borders.

'Human trafficking is modern slavery'

Trafficking another human being is a "violation of human rights" and "an affront to the dignity of the trafficked victim".

In sentencing Muhammad Khairulanwar Rohmat yesterday, District Judge Mathew Joseph said: "Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery.

"It involves controlling a person through force, fraud or coercion to exploit the victim for forced labour, trafficking of organs and, in most cases, for sexual exploitation."

He added that Khairulanwar was "cunning and deceitful", tricking a 16-year-old girl with two personas for his own lust.

Judge Joseph also pointed out that the two victims were children and one was a virgin.

He told Khairulanwar: "You had callously groomed and ensnared them with your predatory wiles and subterfuges.

"Human trafficking is an abhorrent crime which degrades common humanity.

"Deterrence must be the dominant sentencing factor."

MP: I hope this serves 
as deterrence

The Prevention of Human Trafficking Act (Pohta) began as a Private Member's Bill proposed by MP Christopher de Souza in 2013. Following heated debates, it became law in November 2014.

Responding to queries from The New Paper regarding yesterday's landmark case, Mr de Souza said: "My immediate thoughts are for the two young and vulnerable girls who were exploited.

"I hope they will find a way to heal and overcome the great distress of being exploited and then to trust humanity again.

"No one should ever have to fall prey to human trafficking.

"As for the man who was sentenced, I hope the length of time he will spend in prison will cause him to reflect on his acts, mend his ways and rehabilitate himself into a better person.

"I hope that this case will heavily deter any person thinking of heinously exploiting another human being."

This article was first published on February 20, 2016. 
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