SINGAPORE: Ten people - including property agents, sellers and a lawyer - will be charged in court on Tuesday (Dec 3) for their alleged involvement in a housing loan cashback scam involving S$11.4 million.
Investigations by the Commercial Affairs Department unravelled a scheme where the suspects reportedly inflated the selling price of three properties and forged income documents, tricking one bank into disbursing about S$8.52 million in loans.
Explaining the scheme, the police said in a news release on Monday that the facilitators of the scam would arrange with the sellers and their agents to buy their property at a certain price.
Bank loan applications were then made using an inflated figure.
Upon completion of the sale, the sellers would return to the facilitators any money they received in excess of the fixed price.
The facilitators also recruited nominee buyers and submitted forged income documents to the banks to get the loans, police said.
The ploy was uncovered when the nominee buyers defaulted on the loans, said the police. The bank then sold the three properties at a loss of more than S$2.9 million.
Three facilitators will be charged with cheating and forgery offences. One of them will also face seven other charges relating to criminal breach of trust.
The two nominee buyers will each be charged with cheating.
Any suspect found guilty of cheating may be jailed up to 10 years and fined. The sentence for criminal breach of trust is up to 15 years' jail and a fine.
A conviction for forgery offences could land suspects in jail for up to four years or a fine, or both.
Two property sellers will be charged with fraudulently executing a deed of transfer, while their agents will be charged with conspiring with them in the fraud. If found guilty, they may be jailed for up to three years or fined, or both
The conveyancing lawyer will be charged with falsely certifying the correctness of an instrument. A conviction will entail a fine not exceeding S$25,000.
SINGAPORE: A young man who was asked by a fellow moviegoer to stop shaking his leg in the cinema later attacked the man who made the request, as well as the victim's wife.
For one charge of voluntarily causing hurt to the victim, with a second similar charge for the victim's wife, 23-year-old Clifton Wong Jun Han was given a day's jail and a fine of S$3,000 on Tuesday (Dec 3).
A second charge of hurting the victim’s wife was taken into consideration.
The court heard that Wong had gone with his wife to Shaw Theatres at Seletar Mall in Sengkang on the evening of Aug 1 this year to watch a movie.
They sat in the cinema next to the victim and the victim's wife.
Sometime during the film, Wong began shaking his leg continuously, disturbing the victim and his wife, who could feel their seats moving. The victim told Wong to refrain from shaking his leg continuously, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Kevin Ho.
The two couples finished watching the movie and Wong stood up from his seat to leave. As he did, he accidentally tripped and stepped on the victim's foot, but the latter did not say anything.
Wong turned and cursed at the victim, but the latter again ignored him.
Wong then confronted the victim and punched him repeatedly in the face. The victim raised his hand to block the onslaught, and his wife tried to stop Wong, but Wong began punching her arms as well.
The aggressor was restrained by his own wife and other people at the scene, and security officers intervened shortly after.
The police received a call at 5.52pm with a person reporting: "We are watching movie. One guy about 30s beat up the auntie and uncle. Quite bad. Both auntie and uncle are injured. You all have to come down."
The victim and his wife went to Sengkang General Hospital for treatment, and a report found that he had suffered bruising over his head and eye, while his wife had a bruise over her forearm.
The prosecutor asked for a short jail term, leaving the length to the court. He highlighted five aggravating factors including the brazen and prolonged manner of the assault.
WONG UNDER STRESS, SNAPPED: DEFENCE
Defence lawyer Gino Hardial Singh asked instead for the maximum S$5,000 fine, saying that his client was a fireman with Changi Airport Group and had no previous convictions.
While he said Wong's actions were not excusable, his wife was three months pregnant at the time, and the couple had been experiencing "considerable stress" as his wife had bouts of heavy bleeding.
"That gave rise to a concern that there was a possibility that the kid would have Down Syndrome," said Mr Singh.
He added that Wong had just quit smoking at the time and was suffering from withdrawal symptoms.
"For some reason he himself is unable to explain, he just snapped," said the lawyer, adding that it was out of character and happened in the spur of the moment.
He said Wong had made voluntary compensation to the victims and that no fractures or serious harm had been caused.
District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt agreed with the prosecution that there were enough aggravating factors to impose a custodial or short jail term.
"As highlighted by the prosecution, this was anti-social behaviour. The accused became vulgar, violent, and not only attacked the victim but also turned on the victim's wife," said the judge, noting the multiple punches on both of them.
For voluntarily causing hurt, Wong could have been jailed for up to two years, fined S$5,000, or both.
WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court will address gun control on Monday (Dec 2) for the first time in nearly 10 years with a majority of justices seen as supporting the rights of people who own firearms.
In a country in which guns kill nearly 40,000 people every year, the nine-member court will again look at a case involving the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, which enshrines "the right of the people to keep and bear arms."
The court ruled in a landmark decision in 2008 that the amendment guaranteed what it called an individual right to own a gun, and struck down a law that banned handguns. In 2010, it said this decision applied both at the state and federal level.
"But it has not said very much about how courts should evaluate the constitutionality of other gun laws, such as restrictions on assault weapons, high capacity magazines, and concealed carrying," said Joseph Blocher, a professor of law at Duke University in North Carolina.
The court has consistently declined to take up gun cases since the 2010 decision.
But this year, it has agreed for the first time to rule on gun restrictions imposed in New York City in the name of public safety and opposed by the powerful National Rifle Association.
In addressing this case, the court might take the opportunity to clarify how courts can decide whether gun restrictions are legal or not.
HISTORY AND TRADITION
Defenders of stricter gun control laws are afraid the court will issue a ruling that undermines their cause.
The court has undergone a marked shift to the right under President Donald Trump, who promised during the 2016 campaign to nominate judges who are firm believers in gun rights.
Since taking office, he has filled two Supreme Court vacancies with conservative jurists, so liberals are now outnumbered 5-4.
One Trump appointee, Brett Kavanaugh, has written in prior opinions that gun laws should be evaluated "solely on the basis of text, history, and tradition, rather than their effectiveness in addressing contemporary problems of gun violence," said Blocher.
At issue is a New York City law that prohibited people from carrying guns outside their home except to firing ranges.
Plaintiffs who challenged the law argued that it violated their rights by barring them from taking their weapons to a second residence or to shooting ranges outside New York City.
They lost in the lower court, but when the Supreme Court decided in January to weigh in, the city responded by amending the law to allow for weapons to be carried to second residences or shooting ranges outside the city.
Then having made those changes, the city asked the Supreme Court to declare the case moot - a question that will be the first addressed in Monday's court session.
The case is drawing attention in a country in which 30 per cent of the adult popular owns at least one gun. Around 50 organisations have filed friend-of-the-court briefs.
The Trump administration has supported the gun rights side by filing a brief that echoes arguments Kavanaugh has made.
On the other side of the issue, an organisation called March for Our Lives - founded after a school shooting last year in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead - is skipping legal arguments and trying to win over the justices with emotional accounts of the ravages of gun violence.
In a lengthy brief, it details the suffering of young people from the epidemic of gun violence: one survived a shooting by hiding under a slain friend's body; another was hit in the head by a stray bullet; and yet another lost a brother to gang violence.
The stories "represent tens of thousands of other young people who are weighed down by the threat of gun violence every day, and who are pushing policymakers to keep them safe. The court's ruling here must not deprive them of their hope and their ability to effect change through the political process."
If the court does not declare the case moot, it will hand down a decision by June, with the 2020 election campaign well underway.
SINGAPORE: A man who had admitted in October to raping a drunk teenager at the foot of a block in Pasir Ris after a sex-themed Truth or Dare game now wants to retract his plea of guilt.
He also has not paid his lawyers Marcus Tai and Roy Sze, who told the high court on Monday (Dec 2) that they will be discharging themselves from the case.
The 21-year-old accused man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the 15-year-old girl, had pleaded guilty on Oct 31 to raping the girl.
After doing so in the early hours of Oct 17, 2017, he helped his friend and co-accused, who failed in his attempt.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Winston Man told the court that the case was meant for sentencing on Monday, but the defence said the accused had told them on Monday morning that he intends to retract his plea of guilt.
"His further instructions are that he intends to appoint counsel for this purpose and to enter a defence subsequently," said Mr Tai. "Unfortunately, I have to inform this court that we have not been paid for this matter."
The accused had written a letter to the judge, but the prosecution said what he wrote in it did not amount to a defence.
"Technically speaking, he has not satisfied the legal threshold to convince your honour to retract the plea," said the prosecutor.
He said while the man seeks a new set of defence lawyers, the prosecution would allow the plea of guilt to stand, as there are currently "no valid grounds to retract" it.
He said all the safeguards had been observed when he had pleaded guilty - with the meaning of his plea explained to him, defence counsel representing him and with the accused repeatedly asked if he understood his plea.
At the time, the accused had asked for an adjournment of sentencing only to attend to his grandmother, who was in poor health, said the prosecutor.
Justice Audrey Lim granted the defence their request to discharge themselves, and also gave the accused one month to engage new lawyers.
The penalty for rape is a maximum 20 years' jail, a fine, or caning. The case of the second co-accused, who had wanted to rape the victim as well, is pending.
SINGAPORE: An engineer overseeing works who did not report design flaws and cracks that appeared during the building of a viaduct was sentenced to 86 weeks' jail, or about a year and nine months, and fined S$10,000 on Monday (Dec 2).
A portion of the viaduct from Tampines Expressway to Pan-Island Expressway and Upper Changi Road collapsed in the early hours of Jul 14, 2017, and 11 workers on top of the structure fell at least 9m to the ground. One man was killed and several others injured.
Robert Arianto Tjandra, 46, was given the sentence on Monday after pleading guilty last month to three charges: Recklessly doing an act endangering the safety of others at work; failing to take all reasonable steps and exercise due diligence to ensure building works were in line with regulations; and authorising building works to be carried out without approval.
Two other charges were taken into consideration.
Tjandra was the qualified person to prepare building works for the project and supervise the carrying out of building works, and he had discovered errors in the design of the corbels and support structures meant to distribute the vehicular load two weeks before the fatal collapse.
He also learnt of structural cracks on the crossheads of numerous constructed piers, including Piers 40 and 41, where the collapse later occurred.
He realised that wrong effective width assumptions had been used in the design of both temporary and permanent corbels of the viaduct, through his omissions at the design stage.
As a result, many of the corbels had insufficient capacity to support the loads they were intended to bear.
However, instead of flagging what he had discovered, as he was required to do, Tjandra tried to conceal the design deficiencies from the Building and Construction Authority by getting additional rebars installed in the corbels without seeking required approval.
The prosecution team, made up of Kristy Tan, Yang Ziliang, Kelly Ho, Ho Lian Yi, Mark Yeo and Ho Jiayun, had asked for at least 22 months' jail and a fine of at least S$10,000.
They pointed out Tjandra's reckless acts - including his failure to consider his team's lack of bridge design experience, failing to give his team guidance or instruction on the proper method or effective widths to be used for the design of the corbels, and neglecting to prepare corbel design calculations himself.
"The Qualified Person (Design)’s role is one of the cornerstones of the construction industry," said the prosecutors, noting that the public depends on the person's attentive and careful performance his duties to ensure structural safety.
They said construction workers rely on this qualified person for the viability of the structures they work on.
"Deterrent sentences should be imposed to prevent future catastrophes arising from the negligent and even reckless performance of structural design," said the prosecution.
Five people and the main contractor Or Kim Peow Contractors were charged over their involvement in this case.
OKP was fined S$10,000 in July for carrying out unauthorised strengthening works on the support structures of the viaduct, but intends to contest another charge for the death and injuries caused in the collapse.
Engineer Leong Sow Hon was jailed six months in July for failing to make sure that the viaduct's supporting structures were sound.
The other cases are pending.
MEXICO CITY: Members of a US-Mexican religious community who lost relatives in a gangland massacre this month have come under fire from supporters of Mexico's government for pressing the United States to declare drugs cartels terrorist groups.
Three mothers and six children of dual US-Mexican nationality were shot to death in a brutal attack by suspected drug cartel gunmen in the northern state of Mexico, sparking outrage and condemnation in the United States.
The victims belonged to breakaway Mormon families who came to Mexico from the United States decades ago, and some of their US relatives launched a petition over the weekend asking the government to declare the drug cartels terrorist organizations.
US President Donald Trump said he would have the gangs designated terrorist groups, stirring fears that he could send the US military across the border to take them out, ramping up pressure on Mexico ahead of his re-election bid in 2020.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he would not accept any intervention from foreign powers.
Many social media users expressed support for Lopez Obrador and heavily criticised the petition directed to the White House, calling it treasonous and accusing the families of wanting to create a pretext for a US-led invasion.
Twitter posts in Mexico often carried a Spanish language hashtags referring to the LeBaron family as traitors and asking them to leave the country.
"They've got double nationality so why don't they return to their country instead of selling us out," one such post read. "All Mexicans feel unsafe but that doesn't make us ask for foreign intervention."
Alex LeBaron, a former Mexican congressman and relative of some of the victims, called the accusations "baseless" and "insulting" in an interview.
"They're terrorists, these cartels, whether they are declared as such or not," LeBaron said. Previously, he rejected a US-led intervention and instead called for cooperation to improve security for all Mexicans.
The La Mora community in Sonora, where members of the LeBaron as well as the Miller and Langford families live, is still in mourning. This year, they have not followed their tradition of opening their houses to locals on Thanksgiving.
On Dec 1, which marks the first anniversary of Lopez Obrador taking office, members of the community plan to protest violence in Mexico City.
SINGAPORE: The office overseeing the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) on Friday (Nov 29) instructed Facebook to issue a correction notice on a post by the States Times Review.
This came at the instruction of the Minister of Home Affairs K Shanmugam.
"The TCD (targeted correction direction) requires Facebook to publish a correction notice on a 'States Times Review' Facebook post, published on Nov 23, 2019, 8.05am. Mr Tan runs the 'States Times Review' Facebook page," said the POFMA Office.
"POFMA Office has also commenced investigations against Mr Tan for failing to comply with the (correction direction)."
On Thursday, the States Times Review was ordered to correct a Facebook post in the second correction direction handed out under Singapore’s online falsehoods law, authorities.
The correction direction under the new law was issued to Mr Alex Tan Zhi Xiang, a 32-year-old Singaporean who runs the States Times Review website and Facebook page.
A post on the page on Thursday morning said that States Times Review and its editor "will not comply with any order from a foreign government".
Reporters has contacted Facebook for comment.
SINGAPORE: A staff sergeant with the Singapore Police Force (SPF) has been charged with multiple offences, including reportedly abusing his authority to obtain sexual gratification from two female suspects.
In return, he purportedly promised to help one woman avoid criminal prosecution and to help the other with her employer's queries about investigations against her.
Mahendran Selvarajoo, 31, was charged on Friday (Nov 29) with multiple offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act and Computer Misuse Act.
In one of the cases, Mahendran is accused of obtaining oral sex and intercourse from a woman at a multi-storey car park in Serangoon on Apr 30 in order to help her avoid criminal prosecution.
Charge sheets also state that he obtained two handjobs from another woman at another multi-storey car park on Feb 27.
This was purportedly in return for helping her with her employer's queries on investigations against her.
In November 2017, he is allegedly accessed, without authority, a woman's mobile phone before taking pictures of three of her personal photos.
He is also charged with modifying the contents of a computer without authorisation, by copying videos and folders from laptops belonging to two female suspects and uploading them to his own portable storage devices.
Mahendran is also accused of having a total of 46 videos and 26 photos with obscene objects in his phone and USB flash drive.
He was represented by lawyer Kalidass Murugaiyan, who asked for time to prepare documents and get his client's instructions.
District Judge Terence Tay adjourned the case to Dec 27, granting Mahendran S$15,000 bail.
SPF had referred the case to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).
It said in a statement that CPIB will not hesitate to take firm action against all corrupt offenders, "including public officers who abuse their position of authority to cause undue harm to the public and tarnish the image of the public service".
Anyone convicted of a corruption offence can be jailed for up to five years, fined up to $100,000 or both.
The police said in reply to reporters queries that Mahendran has been suspended since May 15 this year.
A police report was lodged against him and the case referred to CPIB after immediate investigations.
“The police also conducted investigations into the case the officer was handling to scrutinise all related evidence and found that the integrity of the findings was not compromised,” said the police spokesperson. Police investigations into the case are ongoing.
She added that SPF officers are expected to uphold the law and maintain the highest standards of conduct and integrity.
“SPF will deal severely with officers who break the law, including charging them in court,” said the spokesperson.
BEIJING: China's Foreign Ministry on Thursday (Nov 28) said it will take "firm countermeasures" if the United States continues to interfere in Hong Kong.
It said legislation signed by US President Donald Trump on Wednesday backing protesters in Hong Kong was a serious interference in Chinese affairs and US efforts were "doomed to fail".
"The nature of this is extremely abominable, and harbours absolutely sinister intentions," the foreign ministry said in a statement, without specifying what measures Beijing might take.
It warned that the United States will shoulder the consequences of China's countermeasures if it continues to "act arbitrarily" in regards to Hong Kong.
"We advise the US not to obstinately go its own way, otherwise China will take firm countermeasures, and the US side must bear all the ensuing consequences."
The legislation signed by Trump was approved unanimously by the US Senate and by all but one lawmaker in the House of Representatives last week. The law also threatens sanctions for human rights violations.
In a statement, he spoke of "respect" for Chinese President Xi Jinping and said he hoped the "leaders and representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences".
But the move provoked fury from Beijing, which called it an "an act of undisguised hegemony".
"(It) seriously violated international law and the basic norms of international relations," the foreign ministry statement said, accusing the US of supporting the "endangerment of social order by violent criminals" and seeking to destroy the stability of Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act requires the US president to annually review the city's favourable trade status and threatens to revoke it if the semi-autonomous territory's freedoms are quashed.
Congress also passed legislation banning sales of tear gas, rubber bullets and other equipment used by Hong Kong security forces in putting down the protests, which are now in their sixth month.
Anti-government protests have roiled the Chinese-ruled city for six months, at times forcing businesses, government, schools and even the international airport to close.
The financial hub has enjoyed a rare lull in violence over the past week, with local elections on Sunday delivering a landslide victory to pro-democracy candidates.
Hong Kong police entered a sprawling university campus on Thursday at the end of a nearly two-week siege that saw some of the worst clashes between protesters and security forces to have rocked the former British colony.
A team of about 100 plain-clothed police officers entered the city's battered Polytechnic University to collect evidence, removing dangerous items including petrol bombs which remain scattered around the campus.
It was not clear whether any protesters remained on site but officers said any that were found would receive medical treatment first.
Demonstrators in Hong Kong are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in the freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
China denies interfering and says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula put in place at that time and has blamed foreign forces for fomenting unrest.
Polytechnic University on Kowloon peninsula was turned into a battleground in mid-November, when protesters barricaded themselves in and clashed with riot police in a hail of petrol bombs, water cannon and tear gas. About 1,100 people were arrested last week, some while trying to escape.
More than 5,800 people have been arrested since June, the numbers increasing exponentially in October and November, as violence escalated.
Security teams from the university had scoured the maze of buildings at the red-bricked, sprawling campus, a focal point in recent weeks of the citywide anti-government protests that escalated in June, finding no one.
Chow Yat-ming, a senior police officer searching the campus on Thursday said if officers ran into any remaining protesters during the clear out operation "arrests would not be an objective".
SINGAPORE: The States Times Review has been ordered to correct a Facebook post in the second correction direction handed out under Singapore’s online falsehoods law, authorities said on Thursday (Nov 28).
The correction direction under the new Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) was issued to Mr Alex Tan Zhi Xiang, a 32-year-old Singaporean who runs the States Times Review website and Facebook page.
Issued on the instruction of Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, the order requires that States Times Review carry a correction notice at the top of its Facebook post, said the POFMA Office, which is responsible for the administration of the law.
A correction direction is issued to a person who has communicated a falsehood that affects the public interest, the POFMA Office said.
It requires the recipient to publish a correction notice with the facts, but does not require the post to be taken down or edits made. The order also does not impose criminal sanctions.
The Nov 23 post by States Times Review alleged that a “whistleblower who exposed a People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate’s Christian affiliations” has been arrested and that the owner of the NUSSU – NUS Students United Facebook page, which published the claims about the PAP candidate, is under police investigation.
“These claims are false and baseless,” said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). “No one has been arrested or charged arising from the NSU post.”
Facebook removed the NUSSU – NUS Students United page of its own accord as the page violated its authenticity policies, and the “fake accounts” linked to the page breached Facebook’s guidelines, the ministry said.
"ABSURD" ALLEGATIONS MADE ABOUT ELECTION PROCESS
The States Times Review also made other “scurrilous, absurd” allegations on Singapore’s election process, MHA said.
“Singapore’s electoral system enjoys high public trust. Elections are held regularly and contested. The electoral system and its procedures are clearly spelt out in law, and apply to all political participants, regardless of affiliation,” the ministry said.
A check by reporters on the States Times Review Facebook page at 11am on Thursday found that the post was still up. No correction notice had been added to the post. A post on Thursday morning said that States Times Review and its editor "will not comply with any order from a foreign government".
Mr Tan, who is based outside of Singapore, is also the editor of other alternative media sites, including Temasek Review News and Singapore Herald.
“This is not the first time that these websites, as well as States Times Review, have perpetuated outright fabrications, such as misrepresenting Singapore’s position in foreign relations with other countries and casting aspersions on the integrity of public institutions,” MHA said.
The websites have previously been blocked by the Info-communications Media Development Authority for breaching its Internet Code of Practice.
Aimed at combating the spread of deliberate online falsehoods, POFMA came into effect in October, five months after it was passed in Parliament.
The correction direction issued to States Times Review is the second in four days. On Monday, the POFMA Office said it directed opposition party member Brad Bowyer to correct a Facebook post he made that questioned the independence of Temasek and GIC.