Belfast Telegraph

Ex-RUC man keeps links to sex industry
Former Sergent back in Philippines despite earlier deportation

By Kathy Marks in Angeles, Phillippines
28 June 2004

A FORMER RUC man from Larne was today accused of remaining at the heart of the Philippines sex industry by running a string of bars for tourists seeking underage girls.

Richard Agnew - who moved to the Philippines 11 years ago, leaving behind a trail of angry investors in a time-share company that he set up after leaving the RUC - has a hand in a number of bars and clubs in Fields Avenue in Angeles, a seedy city north of Manila, catering for sex tourists.

Despite being arrested last year and deported, he is back in the Philippines, operating the same businesses with apparent impunity.

On a recent Saturday night, several of the bored-looking dancers in Nero's Forum nightclub looked no older than 12 or 13. It was a similar story at the Blue Nile Executive Club next door, where men scanned the dance floor before paying a "bar fine" - a fee for taking the girl of their choice away for sex.

Mr Agnew (44) was nowhere to be seen and staff at the Tropicana Hotel, which he owns, said he was in Thailand.

Reliable sources say, however, that he is in Angeles, keeping a low profile after returning to the Philippines soon after being deported in October last year.

"Richard owns all the clubs around here," said the floor manager at Nero's Forum.

Mr Agnew's business partner, Steve Baker, from Cambridge, was equally forthcoming.

"Richard and I run all these clubs with an Irish guy," he said.

Those statements might surprise local police, who arrested Mr Agnew last August after raiding one club, the Blue Nile, and discovering six girls aged between 11 and 13.

The former police sergeant swore that he did not own the clubs. He was imprisoned, but a few weeks later police dropped the charges for lack of evidence. His name did not appear on the clubs' official documents.

Agnew, who once ran a flopped timeshare company in Northern Ireland, has previously angrily denied claims he owns clubs where minors are exploited for sex. He previously told the BBC's Spotlight he is just a consultant to clubs and is not involved in hiring staff.

Although local police have been alerted to Agnew's return to Angeles, they have declined to take action, saying they still have no evidence that he owns the clubs - 17 in total, according to one estimate.

Others are less indulgent. Father Shay Cullen, an Irish priest who has been fighting child prostitution in the Philippines for two decades, said: "He (Mr Agnew) is into clubs and bars, and minors are found inside, so let a court of law decide."

At the Preda Foundation, the refuge that Fr Shay runs near Angeles, Mr Agnew is a familiar face to one girl, Roxanne.

Shown a photograph, she said: "That's Big Daddy" - the term for a sex-club owner.

She added: "We always had to smile nicely when he was around."

Ecpat, a global network that campaigns against child prostitution, estimates that 300,000 sex tourists from Japan alone visit the Philippines every year. Many others are British.

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