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Norwegian behind ‘sugar daddy’ website loses appeal

The offending billboard. © Belga

Sigurd Vedal, the man behind the RichMeetBeautiful website that caused some furore in 2017, has had his original sentence upheld by the appeal court in Brussels.

Vedal, a Norwegian national, was sentenced to six months suspended at trial in May last year, on charges of incitement to prostitution.

The website first came to notice thanks to a billboard set up on the Solbosch campus of the Free University ULB in Brussels, advertising the site.

Hey (female) students! Improve your lifestyle,” the billboard read. “Go out with a sugar daddy.”

On the site itself, visitors learned they could ease their financial difficulties by going out with rich, older men. The question of being paid for sexual favours was never openly addressed, but the inference was clear.

At trial, Vedal disagreed, but the court sided with the prosecution. He was given a six-month suspended sentence and fined €20,000. The company he owns that hosted the website, Digisec Limited, was fined €240,000.

The university joined the case as a civil party, and was awarded damages for moral injury in the sum of €5,000. However the appeal court ruled that the damage to the university could not be quantified, and reduced damages to one symbolic euro.

Vedal’s lawyer is now considering an appeal to the Cassation Court, which can only overturn a verdict on procedural grounds.

I’ll reread the decision, but it’s likely – if there’s any grounds – we’ll go to Cassation,” lawyer Eric Cusas said.

As well as the suspended sentence, the appeal court also upheld the fines on Vedal and the web host. In the meantime, the website has been blocked by the Belgian authorities.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times