Singapore

Saudi diplomat molested hotel intern while on family holiday

A Saudi Arabian diplomat was convicted yesterday 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 embassy in Beijing, China, was found guilty of kissing the 20-year-old on her neck and hugging her while wrongfully restraining her in a hotel room in Sentosa on Aug 14 last year.

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 convincing 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.

The victim's account of what happened had to be dragged out from her after hours of cajoling.

Judge Lee said the victim did not shout, call for help or run out of the room as it was obvious that she was timid. It was also most unfortunate that male police officers were assigned to interview the victim, she said.

She found Alzahrani not to be a credible witness, and not forthcoming during investigations. 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 make false allegations to extort money from the guest.

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, can be jailed for up to 10 years, caned and fined.

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