SINGAPORE – The authorities are clamping down on criminal activities taking place in vacant buildings in industrial areas, including premises that have been used by illegal immigrants as hideouts.
The Singapore Police Force and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) on Dec 5 conducted an operation, with assistance from JTC Corporation, to flush out unauthorised individuals, including illegal immigrants, in the Sungei Kadut industrial estate area.
The media was allowed to visit the sites after law enforcement officers completed their search of the premises.
No one was arrested during the operation, but officers found a range of items that suggested one vacant building in the area was used as a drug den, and a concealed drain measuring about 90cm wide and 2m high was used as a hideout.
The drain sits about 100m from a two-storey building which previously housed factories. The building is surrounded by a fence and locked gates, but the drain was accessible through a metal manhole cover.
Metal steps inside the drain led reporters into a labyrinth of dark passages. About 10m in, reporters spotted damp clothes hanging on a nylon string and a single mattress on a makeshift bed comprising wooden planks.
There were empty plastic bottles and a small medicine vial on the bed.
Plastic bags and pieces of cloth were stuffed into several plastic pipes nearby, likely to prevent water from seeping into the drain.
Reporters spotted more clothing items hung up to dry in the first 80m from the manhole. There were also duffel bags and a bicycle without a wheel.
The stale, foul smell in the drain was inescapable.
Above ground, the vacant factory building nearby also showed signs that illegal immigrants could have hidden there.
Inside, there were cigarette butts, beer cans and tissue paper littered on the ground. The occupants had carved large holes in the walls, presumably for a quick getaway during a raid.
During the operation, police also activated their K-9 unit and an unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, to search the area for individuals who may have been in hiding.
There were signs in another vacant building nearby that suggested it had been used as a drug den. Police officers found suspected controlled drugs, drug paraphernalia and also knives.
The drug case has been referred to the Central Narcotics Bureau.
Assistant Commissioner Ang Eng Seng, Commander of Woodlands Division, said the operation on Dec 5 was an example of the police working “closely with government agencies to clamp down on unlawful activities”.
Figures released by ICA earlier in 2023 showed that 57 illegal immigrants were arrested in 2022. This compares with 56 arrested the previous year and 57 nabbed in 2020.
It is illegal to enter waterways, such as drains, without approval, and offenders may be fined up to $3,000.
Those found guilty of wilful trespass on property may face a fine of up to $1,000.
A fight took place on board a Scoot flight from Singapore to Manila on Dec. 1 that left at least one passenger bloodied in the face.
Filipino authorities restrained and escorted one passenger, reportedly an Australian, off the plane when the aircraft landed in the Philippines.
Videos of the physical exchange have since been circulating online.
One other passenger who was apparently filming and involved in the altercation, but appeared unscathed, asked: “Why he make me do him like this man?”
The Australian was recorded saying in response, “You were right”, as he was escorted off the plane.
This was presumably in reaction to the American man’s threats of physical retribution.
Scoot told multiple news outlets that the incident occurred on flight TR396 from Singapore to Manila.
Scoot said the passenger who was restrained was denied entry into the Philippines and was returned to Perth on Dec. 2, 2023.
The West Australian reported that the Australian man travelled from Perth, had a layover in Singapore, and was going to Manilla.
The man had allegedly demanded drinks from the Scoot cabin crew en route to Singapore and hurled insults at other passengers.
A fellow passenger, on the same two legs of the journey to Singapore, said the Australian man had been on a verbal tirade for “hours”.
An in-flight announcement informing passengers to remain seated was made when the man was hurling abuse at others and challenging a passenger who was filming.
The passenger told the Australian man several times to hit him.
The Australian man then struck the passenger in the face.
New footage viewed by news.com.au reportedly showed the Australian man hurling a slur at an American passenger.
The Australian man was purportedly filmed saying: “Come on, c**ksucker, we’ll have a one-on-one, hey?”
Other passengers intervened
The West Australian reported that several passengers intervened after the first fist was thrown.
Some of them kicked the disruptive passenger when he was on the ground.
The passengers and Scoot flight crew then reportedly zip-tied the man's arms and legs together.
They then waited for the authorities to escort him off the flight in Manila.
The Australian man appeared to have been bleeding from the nose.
SINGAPORE – A Singaporean man, who worked with a friend to fix basketball matches in Thailand and committed multiple graft-related offences, was sentenced to eight months’ jail on Dec 6.
Poh Wei Hao, 30, pleaded guilty on Nov 22 to two charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Two other similar charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.
According to court documents, he had conspired with Singaporean Koa Wei Quan, 33, to commit the offences. Koa’s case is still pending.
In earlier proceedings, Deputy Public Prosecutor Bryan Wong said Poh and Koa met each other in 2009 when they were professional basketball players for the same local club.
The prosecutor did not disclose details about the club.
DPP Wong said that in either 2017 or 2018, Koa discovered that like him, Poh was also placing illegal sporting bets online.
Koa told Poh that he knew foreign basketball players who could be engaged to “fix” matches in which they were playing.
DPP Wong said: “Match fixing would increase the likelihood of Koa and Poh winning their online bets and making a profit, as they would be placing bets for match outcomes that were already agreed with the players involved.”
Poh then agreed to the plan.
The two men discussed fixing matches in the Thailand Basketball League (TBL) with two Filipino players – Almond Pineda Vosotros and Leonidez Zapata Avenido.
At the time, Vosotros was playing for the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA) club, while Avenido was playing for Bangkok Tigers.
The DPP said in November: “These discussions were mainly conducted over a Facebook group conversation created by Koa, which involved the four of them.”
Court documents stated that some time on or before July 1, 2018, Koa and Vosotros separately agreed that the latter would help fix a TBL match in which PEA took on the Mono Vampire basketball club.
DPP Wong said: “Koa understood that Almond (Pineda Vosotros) would be ‘doing under’, by which PEA would lose its match by a certain score. It was also agreed that Almond would receive $1,000 for helping to fix the match.”
The Filipino played in the match and his team lost on July 1, 2018.
The prosecution said Koa handed some money to Poh, who went to Bangkok and passed $1,000 to Vosotros six days later.
DPP Wong also said that on July 7, 2018, Koa and Poh discussed with the two players to fix another match.
It was agreed that Vosotros would help fix the match, and in return, he requested for US$1,500 (S$2,010) for successfully doing so, said the prosecutor.
He added that Poh, acting on Koa’s agreement, accepted the offer.
However, Poh later told Vosotros that the deal was off. According to court documents, this was because the two Singaporeans were unable to place a match bet based on a desired outcome.
For each graft charge, an offender can be jailed for up to five years and fined up to $100,000.
SINGAPORE – A Nanyang Technological University (NTU) dropout who forged a bachelor’s degree in engineering certificate from the institution and duped multiple firms into hiring her was jailed for eight months on Dec 6.
By using the fake certificate, Fonseka Wannerichega Hema Ranjini was hired by companies such as The Walt Disney Company, Marshall Cavendish and Scholastic Education International, earning a monthly salary of between $4,200 and $6,800.
On Nov 23, the 44-year-old Singaporean pleaded guilty to two counts of cheating and a count of committing forgery. Two other charges were considered during sentencing.
Before handing down the sentence on Dec 6, District Judge Terence Tay noted that her offences had deprived more deserving people from getting the jobs she clinched.
Fonseka, whose highest attained educational qualification is the GCE A levels, enrolled in NTU to study engineering in 1998, but dropped out in August 2004 as she struggled to pass various modules and pay the tuition fees.
In 2005, she used a computer program to design a certificate showing she had graduated from NTU in June 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in engineering with third-class honours.
After that, she used the bogus document to apply for various jobs.
In August 2005, publisher Marshall Cavendish hired her as an assistant managing editor with a monthly salary of $4,200.
In July 2015, Fonseka joined publisher Scholastic Education International as an assistant managing editor, earning $4,300 a month. She was promoted to managing editor a year later, and was paid $4,600 a month.
Scholastic paid her a total of $83,800 during the period of her employment. But in February 2017, she was laid off owing to unsatisfactory work performance.
In 2021, Fonseka applied to entertainment and media enterprise The Walt Disney Company in South-east Asia and was hired as a learning editor in its publishing department from June to December that year.
Her monthly salary there was $6,800 a month, and she was given a transport allowance of $1,084 a month, bringing her total remuneration to $7,884 a month.
Her offences came to light when Walt Disney sent her fake certificate to be validated by a third-party vendor shortly after she was hired.
Walt Disney’s human resources department asked Fonseka for an explanation after NTU confirmed that it did not award her with a degree.
Fonseka then claimed she withdrew from NTU in her final year of undergraduate studies, but it issued a certificate at her request to prove she was enrolled there for a period of time.
In October 2021, an NTU employee alerted the police. Fonseka resigned from Walt Disney in December 2021. The company had paid her about $47,300 during the period of her employment.
On Dec 6, Deputy Public Prosecutor Melissa Heng urged District Judge Tay to sentence Fonseka to up to 10 months’ jail.
The prosecutor stressed that Fonseka had put in considerable effort to make the fake certificate appear genuine, and that she had earned considerable salaries.
Defence lawyer Foo Cheow Ming pleaded for his client to be given either a fine or a “very brief” jail term.
He told the court that Fonseka’s mother had abused her physically and mentally, and that the affected firms did obtain services from his client.
For each count of cheating, an offender can be jailed for up to three years and fined.
SINGAPORE – A 59-year-old man has been accused of allegedly sexually assaulting a two-year-old girl.
The Malaysian, who is a Singapore permanent resident, was charged in court on Dec 6 with one count of using criminal force to a person below 14 years old with intent to outrage modesty.
He cannot be named because of a gag order to protect the victim’s identity.
According to court documents, the man had allegedly used criminal force on the toddler by placing his right hand inside her diaper and using his fingers to molest her.
The incident happened on Nov 9 between 1pm and 3pm. The location of the alleged offence was redacted from the charge sheet.
The prosecution said the man is believed to be involved in other similar cases.
The judge granted the prosecution’s application for the accused to be remanded for one week, and for him to be taken out for investigations.
The case has been adjourned to Dec 13.
Those found guilty of using criminal force to a person below 14 years old with intent to outrage modesty can be jailed for up to five years, fined, caned, or receive any combination of such punishments.
This is a developing story.
'Tired of paying on their behalf': Restaurant in MacPherson sees several dine-and-dash incidents in 4 months
Over the past four months of operations at their new premises in MacPherson, vegetarian Indonesian restaurant Warung Ijo has been hit with multiple dine-and-dash incidents.
The last of which, however, was resolved after the customer came forward later to make payment.
Taking to Facebook last Saturday (Dec 2), the eatery appealed for help in a now-deleted post to locate two diners that had left without making payment that morning.
An attached photo reportedly showed the duo sitting at the restaurant as well as their unsettled bill of $61.90.
The duo had visited the Warung Ijo at about 11am and ordered several dishes for dine-in, as well as a gado-gado dish costing $13.20 for takeaway, according to the Chinese evening daily.
When reporters visited the restaurant that afternoon, the manager, surnamed Huang, confirmed the incident. He stated that he was unsure, however, if the patrons intended to dine and dash or merely forgot to pay.
This incident is also the fifth such case that the restaurant has encountered since their opening in August, revealed Huang.
The unpaid bills ranged from $20 to $70 each, leading to an accumulated loss of around $300 for the eatery.
Huang said that the restaurant owner bore the cost for the first bill, but he and his coworkers on duty had to foot the customers' bills for subsequent incidents.
"It is not a small amount, and we are tired of paying on their behalf," he bemoaned.
Previously, customers would have to make payment for their orders before the food is served, but the manager explained that several diners had complained about the inconvenience when wanting to place additional orders.
Hence, the restaurant adopted a new process where diners first place their orders via a QR code, and pay later at the counter after their meal.
Of the most recent case, Huang said that four staff were manning the restaurant that morning, and they only had a handful of customers.
But in a momentary lapse of attention, staff had failed to notice the diners leaving before they finished settling their bill.
"This gets even harder to manage when we are busy," added Huang.
The incident ended on a positive note, however.
In an update posted to Facebook later that day, the restaurant said the customers had contacted them and paid for their meal, adding: "We are glad it's a case of negligence."
A traveller in Singapore claimed to have encountered a bedbug while on a stay at a hostel in Chinatown.
The TikTok user Olivia shared a video on the social media platform in late November 2023, detailing the experience.
Describing it as "a traveller's worst nightmare", Olivia revealed that she stayed in a self-check-in hostel with a private room in Chinatown as it was "not cheap" in Singapore.
Hostels typically cost less than hotels.
She also added that she took the necessary precautions to prevent bedbugs from infesting her personal belongings.
She placed her bags as far away from the bed as possible, but the room was apparently too small to make much difference.
After that, she went out to explore for a couple of hours, and when she returned, she discovered the bug.
Bug crawling on the surface
When she returned to the room, she noticed something moving and saw it was a bug.
She caught the bug crawling on camera and took a few photos of it to send to her friends.
She also decided to google the bug she saw.
She initially thought it was an ant, but after researching online, she said it was "definitely bedbugs".
She apparently came across a article detailing that some Singapore pest control firms reported increased bedbug infestation.
One pest control company reported an increase in bedbug cases by around 40 per cent in the past two months, as per the article.
This came after numerous reports of bedbug infestations in major cities like Paris and South Korea.
Immediately left the hostel
Olivia then immediately left the hostel and said in her captions that she could get a full refund for her accommodation.
"They gave me no details on if and how they were dealing with the issue," she added.
She went to a laundromat and threw her fabric belongings into a dryer at 60 degrees to "try and kill [the bedbugs]".
She also checked her bags thrice to ensure she found no bedbugs, and she apparently threw away some of her items, including her sneakers, because of the bedbugs.
Olivia then booked a flight out of Singapore and spent the rest of her time at the airport before she left the country.
Unsure what kind of bug
Many expressed sympathy for Olivia's plight, agreeing that the situation was stressful and unfortunate.
However, some commenters pointed out that the bug she showed in her video may not have been a bedbug but could be a baby cockroach.
Others pointed out that as she travels a lot, she could have brought the bedbug with her unknowingly.
A man was caught on closed-circuit television (CCTV) stealing a power-assisted bicycle and its charger outside a Housing Development Board (HDB) flat in Toa Payoh.
The footage, shared on TikTok by user @foodpandax3 on Dec. 2, has since gone viral, accumulating over 183,000 views.
Stole bike outside a flat
In the video, a man can be seen pacing back and forth outside the flat.
He peeks at the e-bike and touches the handlebars before moving away.
He came back a few seconds later and walked past the house a couple of times before peering into it as if making sure that the coast was clear.
Subsequently, he moved the e-bike slightly forward, took its charger and walked away.
The letters "SCDF" on the back of his shirt are visible in the video when he bends down to grab the charger.
In just a matter of seconds, he returned and took the bike away.
Discovered the bike missing and posted online
Speaking to reporters, the owner of the e-bike shared that he noticed the e-bike was stolen when he left his house at 1:45am.
The CCTV footage showed that the theft happened at 1:20am on Dec. 2, 2023.
The owner, who is a food delivery rider, then shared the incident on his Instagram page, as well as amongst rider group chats on WhatsApp and Telegram. He also made a police report.
His friend then helped to share on his TikTok account, @foodpandax3.
'Looks like me. But not me.': Man told owner
On the same night, a person reached out to the owner, claiming to be not the person in the video.
However, according to chat screenshots seen by reporters, the person wanted the owner to take down the video.
When the owner asked if he was the person in the video, he replied, in exact words, "Look like me. But not me."
He also claimed that he was with his girlfriend at the time of the incident.
"I already suspected he was the culprit, so I played along," he said.
Person says 'thief' is not him but 'someone he knows from Yishun'
The "misidentified person" then said he knew who the "real thief" was and insisted the owner take down the video.
His message read, in exact words, "Bro it not me why you post me?"
The owner then asked the "misidentified person" if the "real thief" really was from Yishun, as claimed by some of the other people who reached out to him.
The "misidentified person" claimed that the "real thief" indeed was from Yishun.
The owner then told the "misidentified person" that he already made a police report and "things don't have to be ugly" if the "real thief" just returned the bike.
First claimed bike was sold off
The "misidentified person" then said the "real thief" had already sold off the bike and asked if he could pay back the owner with cash.
However, the owner wanted his bike back.
The "misidentified person then said the "real thief" needed a week to return the bike.
"** one week?" The owner remarked.
The "misidentified person" replied, in exact words, "He tries to get back your bike, if don't have you want to do anything to him also can."
Then claimed bike crashed in Mandai
Soon after, the "misidentified person" then told the owner that the "real thief" admitted that he crashed the bike and left it in the Mandai area.
The "misidentified person" also said that the bike was damaged.
Once he knew where the bike was, the owner immediately headed down to look for it, fearing that the e-bike would be dismantled and sold for parts.
The owner searched for the e-bike in the Mandai area for about 30 minutes before discovering his e-bike.
The owner, who relies on the e-bike for his food delivery job, has been unable to work since the theft.
While the "misidentified person" claimed that the "real thief" agreed to pay compensation, the owner said "they" refused to meet him.
SCDF checking if guy is from SCDF
In response to reporters queries, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said they are "aware of a CCTV footage posted on TikTok where a man wearing an SCDF t-shirt was seen taking a power-assisted bicycle that was parked outside a residential unit".
The SCDF confirms that they are working to verify if the person is an SCDF personnel.
SINGAPORE – The man who sexually abused a teenage girl whom he wanted to adopt had no criminal record and adverse history, and professionals did not detect any abuse during regular check-ins with the offender, his wife and the victim.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) on Dec 4 said the couple were volunteers at the therapeutic group home where the girl was residing.
The teenager, who was under the care of MSF, had moved in with the home after her father subjected her to sexual abuse by touching her inappropriately in January 2018.
The girl, who was 16 when she moved in with the couple, was in the process of being adopted when she was sexually assaulted by the man who wanted to take her in.
The 39-year-old man was on Nov 28 sentenced to 10 years’ jail and nine strokes of the cane after pleading guilty to four counts of exploitative sexual penetration of a minor who is 16 or 17.
Another nine charges were taken into consideration for his sentencing.
MSF said there were phased contacts between the couple and the victim before she started living with them in their home.
She met them during supervised visitations at the therapeutic group home, as well as at outings, before it progressed to home leave and full-time care.
“From December 2019 to early April 2020 before (the Covid-19) circuit breaker, she was on home leave with the couple that started from a day to a few days a week,” the ministry said.
“Her home leave was suspended during the circuit breaker from April to May 2020 and resumed gradually from June 2020. From Sept 15, 2020, she stayed with the couple daily.”
Between September and mid-November 2020, the man subjected her to multiple forms of sexual penetration, including sodomy. The acts took place almost daily.
MSF said that despite weekly check-ins with professionals to monitor the girl’s well-being, safety and progress, as well as the couple’s regular sessions with professionals to assess their ability to care for her, no sexual abuse concerns were detected.
The professionals included psychologists and case workers from the therapeutic group home, a psychiatrist and a psychologist from the Institute of Mental Health, and a child protection officer.
MSF said child abuse is often hard to detect, particularly when a caregiver actively hides it.
The ministry added: “This case highlights how detection can be difficult even with close and constant support provided by professionals.
“It also shows the critical role of having trusted individuals in one’s life. In this case, if not for the teacher the young person trusted and confided in, the abuse might have remained hidden for much longer.”
The man who abused her was a manager at a youth leadership development firm at the time and the father of two young boys. He cannot be named due to a gag order to protect the victim’s identity.
The girl was 13 in June 2017 when her mother killed herself in front of her. As a result, she suffered from adjustment disorder with depressed mood.
In January 2018, her father subjected her to sexual abuse by touching her inappropriately. She was removed from her father’s care in March 2018 and MSF placed her in the care of a family friend.
In June 2018, one of her close friends committed suicide and the girl later engaged in self-harm by repeatedly using a blade to cut her limbs.
Assessed to be a suicide risk, she was placed in a centre designed to help girls who suffered trauma or abuse to reintegrate into society.
The company that the offender was working in was running a camp for girls in June 2019. This was where he met the victim, who was a camp participant.
During the camp, she told the offender that she was hoping for foster care or adoption, as she could not return to her biological family.
The man’s wife agreed with his decision to adopt the girl. His family was later assessed by MSF to be suitable caregivers.
In September 2020, she was at the man’s home when he suggested they take part in an activity. He told her to stand topless before a mirror and describe what she saw while he stood blindfolded nearby.
She did not know what the activity was for, but assumed it might be some form of therapy for her.
Soon after, he started to rub her chest, claiming it would help her body release some “love chemicals”.
This happened on multiple occasions, and she allowed him to do so as she trusted the man and felt close to him.
Between September and November 2020, he also sexually penetrated her, made her perform sex acts on him and would sometimes use his mobile phone to take photographs and videos of the acts.
The court heard that the girl felt guilty after the sexual acts and started harming herself again. She also felt that she was “trash and worthless”.
She told a teacher about her ordeal, who then alerted the police.
MSF said in its reply that all volunteers in MSF-funded programmes involving contact with clients undergo background reference checks and suitability assessments by social service agencies.
“No risk factors emerged during the assessment of the couple’s suitability as kith caregivers for the girl. Trained professionals assessed them as caring and capable of supporting her needs,” the ministry added.
Kith caregivers are non-familial adults known to the child through family or community connections, and they are not registered as foster parents.
MSF said the girl did not disclose the abuse to professionals supporting her until she told her school teacher in November 2020.
MSF added: “Although the young person had some signs of self-harm, that would not have indicated that she was being sexually abused, as due to her past trauma history, she had ongoing self-harm behaviour before she was under the care of the couple.”
The teen is now staying with her relatives and receiving support from a family service centre social worker and a hospital psychologist.
SINGAPORE – A 40-year-old man was arrested for suspected drug-related offences and assaulting a police officer in Bukit Batok, the police said on Dec 5.
The police received a call for assistance on Nov 30 at 11.15pm at Block 433A Bukit Batok West Avenue 8, where a man was observed to be wailing and screaming to himself.
When approached by the police, the man was not forthcoming, became aggressive and assaulted one of the officers.
He was then arrested for voluntarily causing hurt to deter a public servant from the discharge of his duty, and for suspected drug-related offences.
The man was subsequently taken conscious to hospital for his injuries.
The 21-year-old police officer who was assaulted also received medical treatment at the hospital.
Police investigations are ongoing.
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