A company which links up older men offering younger women cash and other rewards in exchange for dates is looking to set up base in New Zealand.

SugarBook runs a sugar dating app and claims to have 10,000 members signed up in New Zealand.

Its Malaysian creator and chief executive Darren Chan, 31, said it wanted to extend its online service to set up an office in New Zealand and Australia because of the "rising trend of sugar relationships down under".

Critics say the arrangements are little different to prostitution and it has sparked concerns about young women being exploited and abused.

Advertisement

Sugarbook is being watched by police in Singapore and accused of facilitating illegal prostitution in Malaysia.

Sugar dating is where an older man or woman spends large amounts of money on a younger girlfriend or boyfriend in exchange for a relationship.

Gifts received by sugar babies interviewed by the Herald on Sunday previously included breast enhancements, watches, handbags, business class travel and regular cash transfers.

Another sugar dating website, SeekingArrangements, based in the US, claimed last year to have more than 50,000 members signed up in New Zealand. It advertised itself as a way to help sugar babies "hack student debt" and sparked warnings from Immigration New Zealand that such relationships may breach temporary visa conditions for international students and risk them being deported.

A tax expert said sugar babies needed to declare any gifts received in return for services or risk committing a "tax crime".

SugarBook holds "sugar daddy parties" overseas to bring sugar babies and sugar daddies together.

"Throughout the night [at other parties] we also saw a lot of our members finding their daddies and babies and went off together," Chan said

A SugarBook spokeswoman told the Herald on Sunday representatives would be coming to New Zealand "to scout for a place to set up operation", and an official launch would likely take place next year.

Concerns have been raised about the company in South East Asian states.

Prostitution itself is not illegal in Singapore, but prostitution related activities such as public solicitation, running a brothel and living off the earnings of a sex worker were criminalised.

Soliciting and brothels were also illegal in Malaysia, and prostitution activities were punishable with public caning in the states of Terengganu and Kelantan.

The Malaysian Mental Health Association said it had encountered cases where sugar babies self-harmed and attempted suicide when the lifestyle they were used to ended, along with their relationship.

Sugar baby Caroline, 19, showing off the cash given to her by her sugar daddy. Photo / supplied
Sugar baby Caroline, 19, showing off the cash given to her by her sugar daddy. Photo / supplied

Asian Family Services deputy director Ivan Yeo said sugar relationship arrangements came with many pitfalls and left an emotional scar.

"Sugar babies, lacking in life and experience and not able to comprehend their current action, might lead to regret later in life especially after marriage," said Yeo, also originally from Malaysia.

Gifts that sugar baby Caroline got from her sugar daddy. Photo / supplied.
Gifts that sugar baby Caroline got from her sugar daddy. Photo / supplied.

Yeo said sites like SugarBook put young people at risk of being exploited or abused and warned of the risk of sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies.

"Young people in NZ already have enough problems, my request to Sugarbook is ... please leave New Zealand alone."

Dame Catherine Healy of the NZ Prostitutes Collective said sugar relationships were "just another form of sex work".

"They may be using a facade that sugar babies are not related to sex work ... but sex is definitely a key element of sugar relationships," she said.

Healy believed a company promoting sugar relationships in New Zealand could be in breach of the Prostitution Reform Act. Under the law, it was illegal for people on temporary visas to provide commercial sexual services.

Immigration New Zealand manager of visa services Michael Carley said payment of school fees, accommodation and presents in exchange for sex could in some circumstances be considered providing a sexual service and would be a breach of a temporary visa.

Immigration also said there was no visa category that would allow a person, who was not a New Zealand citizen or resident, to invest in, direct, own or manage a commercial sex business.

Bob McCoskrie of Family First said relationships based on "purchasing a friendship" would always be problematic and artificial.

Chan believed New Zealanders were "more susceptible" to sugar dating and that there was a huge untapped market here.

"We believe in providing the people a safe and honest platform to build sugar relationships," Chan said.

He insisted the app was not a platform for prostitution, and said the company had 12 moderators working around the clock to stop any form of solicitation, prostitution or adult content.

"There is nothing wrong about sugar dating and it is perfectly legal," he insisted.

Chan described SugarBook as a niche social networking platform to build "mutually beneficial relationships" between consenting adults.

"This could range from having polyamourous or monogamous relationships to financial assistance such as monthly allowances and paying tuition fees to luxury vacations," he said.