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Court upholds sentence for 'sugar daddy' dating site founder

21:28 02/05/2021

Brussels appeals court has confirmed fines totalling more than a quarter of a million euros and a six-month suspended prison sentence for the owner of a dating site which invited female students to find a "sugar daddy" online to make ends meet.

The case started with a billboard installed near the ULB campus that depicted a young woman and a diamond and carried the following text in French: “Hey female students! Improve your lifestyle. Go out with a sugar daddy. Richmeetbeautiful.be [is the] #1 dating site in Belgium for sugarbabes and sugardaddies”.

Many in the university community were offended and as a result of the ensuing court case, Norwegian businessman Sigurd Vidal was found guilty of inciting prostitution.

Along with a six-month suspended prison term he was fined €20,000 personally and his company Digisec Limited, which hosted the website, was fined €240,000. The website was also blocked by the Belgian authorities.

The ULB was a civil party in this lawsuit. The court had determined moral damages were real and asked the accused to compensate the university up to €5,000.

However, on appeal, the judge did not find that the moral damage was quantifiable, so he set the damages at a symbolic €1.

Defense lawyer Eric Cusas can now attempt to overturn the decision in the Court of Cassation so that the trial can be retried. "I'll reread the decision, but it's likely, if there's any possibility, that we'll go to cassation," he said.

Written by Richard Harris