KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — The founder of sugar dating platform Sugarbook, Darren Chan, was arrested by the police on Wednesday (17 Feb) on suspicion of soliciting for prostitution and abusing network facilities.
Selangor police CID chief SAC Datuk Fadzil Ahmat on Thursday (18 Feb) confirmed that the 34-year-old suspect was held at the Icon Residence in Mont Kiara at about 4.30pm yesterday by the police, according to The Sun Daily.
Fadzil said that Mr Chan will be brought to the Shah Alam Court today for remand over investigations launched under laws of the Penal Code related to soliciting for prostitution and for publishing a statement or rumour with intent to cause fear or alarm to the public.
The Penang-born suspect is also being probed under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) for misuse of network facilities.
Founded in 2017, Sugarbook describes itself as a platform where “romance meets finance”, and is dubbed as Asia’s most critically-acclaimed online dating brand.
The company came into the crosshairs of the Malaysian authorities recently when it recently published figures from its Malaysian users database, claiming that there has been an increasing number of sugar babies among the local university students who have been using the app to seek financial support from sugar daddies, especially during this trying COVID-19 pandemic.
The infographics, similar to the ones previously catered for Singapore universities, were widely circulated on social media, and also picked up by the local media.
Sunway University topped the list with more than 21 per cent of the 14,433 students of the 10 universities who were purportedly signed up as sugar babies on the platform.
Sunway Education Group CEO, director of the Ministry of Higher Education, politicians, and activists voiced their concerns on the matter
Following this, Sunway Education Group chief executive officer Prof Dr Elizabeth Lee called Sugarbook out for being “irresponsible” in willing to “tarnish the good and sincere work of so many young minds” for its “own profit and gain” in these challenging times.
“We are truly disappointed with a recent article about a company that challenges the moral fabric of our community and of our youth, while aiming to promote and profit from immoral and possibly illegal activity,” said Prof Lee in a statement on 10 February.
“While we do not wish to reproduce the article, suffice to say that it unjustly casts aspersions on the morality and decency of our students and the wider education community,” she added.
Meanwhile, Prof Datuk Dr Husaini Omar, the director of the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE), explained in a statement that the learning institutions believe that the data published by Sugarbook is questionable.
“Sunway Education Group stated that it was impossible 45% of current Sunway University students are involved as sugar babies. This is because there are currently only 7,000 students enrolled at Sunway University. Therefore, the report that was published by the media stating that as many as 3,105 students from Sunway University are sugar babies is just absurd,” he noted.
Malaysian authorities blocked access to Sugarbook website
Earlier on Monday (15 Feb), the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) blocked access to Sugarbook website for allegedly breaching the law on the use of network facilities or network services, as reported by The Star.
This came after the MCMC issued a statement warning users against the service, stating that action would be taken if the authorities detected elements of prostitution.
“MCMC is concerned about the recent marketing gimmick by dating site Sugarbook which claimed that many Malaysian women, especially university students have offered themselves as ‘Sugar Baby’ on the application,” said the Commission in its statement.
“Such claims should be investigated because the user profiles could be manipulated to deceive victims,” it added.
Sugarbook changed its web address to circumvent the block
Interestingly, barely 24 hours after the website was blocked, Sugarbook proceeded to change its website URL to www.sucrebook.com, allowing its users to bypass the Government-imposed ban on its initial main website.
For those who are curious about the name of the alternate website, ‘sucre‘ is French for sugar.
The company also announced to its users on the app regarding the new official website.
What’s more, Sugarbook even sent out an email to its users with instructions on how to circumvent the block.
At the time of writing, both the websites are inaccessible in Malaysia.
Sugarbook is taking strict measures to ensure the ban does not happen in other countries, says Darren Chan
Prior to his arrest, Mr Chan released a statement on Tuesday (16 Feb) in response to the ban as well as the decision to change Sugarbook’s web address.
“You may have heard about the ban on Sugarbook in Malaysia. I’m sorry that we’re not in a position to do more at this time. We have a responsibility to help you with building modern relationships. If we cannot deliver, then we are not worthy to serve you,” he wrote.
Mr Chan went on to say that Sugarbook is “taking strict measures” to ensure the ban does not take place in other countries that the company operates.
“We believe that our Malaysian government knows what’s best for the people and acted in good faith,” he added.
Mr Chan concluded his statement thanking all those who believe in Sugarbook’s mission, and helped build its community to what it is today.
Read: Number Of Sugar Baby Signups From Singaporean Universities On The Rise Due To Increasing University Fees | Interview With Sugar Baby: Sugar Dating Is Strictly Not Prostitution But A Choice Of Lifestyle