Singapore

Police step up checks to weed out errant massage parlours

Two-week police operation also found 14 unlicensed massage parlours

With five closed-circuit television cameras pointing towards the walkway leading to the second-storey shophouse unit and a security door in place, staff at a facial spa in Upper Thomson Road should have been prepared for any visitors.

Yet three female employees and two of their male clients were caught off-guard when the police came knocking - and discovered it was an unlicensed massage establishment.

The random enforcement check by officers from the Bishan Neighbourhood Police Centre was part of an intensive two-week islandwide operation targeting unlicensed and errant massage parlours.

The Singapore Police Force revealed yesterday that it arrested 10 women for offences under the Women's Charter and Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.

Fourteen massage parlours were also found to have been operating without a valid licence.

Officers checked 41 establishments across 15 neighbourhoods from March 1 to 14.

Police stepped up checks in the wake of the new Massage Establishments (ME) Act which came into force on March 1, giving them more bite in weeding out unlicensed massage parlours and errant landlords.

Those who flout the law now will face significantly higher penalties such as imprisonment of up to two years and a maximum fine of $10,000.

The ME Act also restricts operating hours for most licensed massage parlours.

The number of unlicensed massage establishments detected by police increased by 40 per cent between 2013 and 2016.

There were about 300 such errant operators found in 2016, with 7 per cent operating in HDB properties and 40 per cent engaging in vice-related offences.

MASSAGE BED

Officers who visited the facial spa establishment in Upper Thomson found a massage bed in one of its rooms.

Journalists were allowed into the premises during the two-hour enforcement operation.

Three foreign women - two wearing short dresses and one in denim shorts and a T-shirt - were overheard speaking in Mandarin, explaining to the police the nature of their work at the spa.

The women's immigration documents and work permits were all in order but while no arrests were made, the facial spa was found to have provided unlicensed massages.

COURT & CRIME