SINGAPORE - Two men have been charged for their alleged roles in an impersonation scam.
Ng Jee How, 46, and Chiw Meng Tong, 48, were each handed a charge for assisting another to retain benefits from criminal conduct on Friday (June 11).
Ng, a Malaysian and Singapore permanent resident, is alleged to have collected $230,000 from three people and handed $209,000 of it to Chiw.
The latter deposited $18,600 from that sum into unknown accounts and handed $186,000 to an unknown man.
In a release on Thursday, the police said it received reports from five victims from July 18 to 29 last year.
They had handed over more than $1.5 million.
They were tricked into doing so by phone scammers who claimed to be officials from China and who accused them of being involved in transnational money-laundering crimes.
The victims said they handed the money over, believing it was to prove that their funds were not derived from illegal activities.
Investigations by the police found that Ng and Chiw had responded to a job listing on Facebook promising $300 for courier work.
The two followed instructions, collecting about $230,000 from three of the five victims.
They allegedly handed over the money to unknown persons, receiving $15,700 in commission.
The commission was surrendered to the police during investigations.
Both men are out on bail of $15,000 each, and their cases are expected to be heard again on July 9.
If convicted, they may each be jailed for up to 10 years, or fined up to $500,000, or both.
Members of the public are advised by the police to take the following precautions when they receive unsolicited calls asking them to part with their money:
1. Ignore the calls and caller's instructions.
2. Understand that no local government agency will demand payment through a phone call or social messaging platform, or demand that cash be handed over to strangers, or ask for personal banking information.
3. If they are not Singaporean, check with their embassy or high commission to verify the call.
4. Call a friend or relative before making any decisions.
The police added that the public should not collect money for strangers, especially if they are claiming to be law enforcement officers.
Those who have any information related to these scams or any doubts can call the police hotline on 1800-255-0000 or submit a report online.
SINGAPORE - Four people are being investigated for abusing enforcement officers and safe distancing ambassadors (SDAs), and not complying with safe distancing measures.
The three men and a woman, aged between 25 and 54, allegedly committed the offences in three separate incidents, said a police statement on Friday (June 11).
One of them, Ng Chwee Hock, was charged on Friday for using insulting words against a public servant at Redhill Food Centre on Thursday (June 10).
The 46-year-old's case will be heard again on July 9.
"Preliminary investigations revealed that (Ng) allegedly used abusive language towards the SDEO, when he was advised not to sit at the table in the food centre to consume his food and drinks," police said. SDEO refers to a safe distancing enforcement officer.
Ng purportedly refused to comply even when police officers advised him to do so, and continued to verbally abuse the SDEO.
Police told reporters that he is currently under investigation for other unrelated offences.
In another incident on May 26, police received a report from an SDA that a man taunted her while she was on duty in Crawford Lane.
He allegedly approached the SDA, pulled down his mask and asked her to catch him.
Another woman is said to have then approached the SDA, pushed her on her shoulder and stepped on her foot.
Both the man and woman then fled the scene.
Police said the identities of the man, who is 54, and the woman, who is 25, were established through investigations.
They are assisting with investigations for using criminal force, voluntarily causing hurt and flouting safe distancing measures.
The third incident occurred on May 27 when police were alerted to a dispute involving a group of men at a void deck in Yishun Street 11.
Officers spotted the men allegedly gathering, with beer cans strewn across a table beside them.
A 39-year-old, who wanted to leave as officers were interviewing the group, allegedly became rowdy and hurled vulgarities after he was told to stay put.
He purportedly punched another man in the group when the latter tried to calm him down.
He was arrested for using abusive language against a public servant and causing annoyance while drunk.
The group will also be investigated for breaching safe distancing measures.
Individuals found guilty of using abusive words against a public servant can be jailed for up to a year, or fined up to $5,000, or both.
For breaching safe distancing measures, a first-time offender may be jailed up to six months, or fined up to $10,000, or both.
Those convicted of using criminal force can be jailed up to three months, or fined up to $1,500, or both.
For voluntarily causing hurt, an offender may be jailed up to three years, or fined up to $5,000, or both.
The offence of causing annoyance while drunk carries a maximum jail term of six months and a fine of $1,000.
SINGAPORE - A local company is being investigated for manufacturing surgical masks here without a licence, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) said on Friday (June 11).
This is the first time a firm is suspected of that action.
The manufacturing was observed taking place in an unhygienic and makeshift environment at Vision Empire International's facility in Ubi Crescent, with the masks placed in carton boxes and left out in the open.
A total of 33 cartons, each containing about 2,500 masks, were seized.
Under the Health Products Act, firms are required to have a licence from HSA to manufacture surgical masks.
Vision Empire International was also suspected to have imported surgical masks from overseas before repackaging, rebranding and reselling them without having a licence to do so.
Both manufactured and repackaged masks were sold under the brand Vision Empire Healthcare.
They were sold on local e-commerce platforms for between $10 and $22 per box of 50 masks, according to preliminary investigations.
Consumers who have made purchases are advised to stop using them immediately, HSA said.
It added that these listings have been removed with the assistance of the platform administrators, and Vision Empire International has been directed to recall the products. Investigations are ongoing, the authority said.
Manufacturers and repackers of surgical masks are licensed by HSA to ensure good quality and safety for use.
In its release, the authority said surgical masks from unlicensed facilities have not been verified to meet the standards of quality, filtration capability and breathability.
"Sub-standard masks may not provide the desirable level of protection to the wearer," it added, noting that masks made, repackaged and/or stored in unsanitary conditions could be contaminated.
"Wearing such masks may increase the users' risk of developing skin irritation, respiratory symptoms or infections," HSA said.
It will take strong enforcement action against those who illegally manufacture and/or supply masks.
Those who do so could be prosecuted and, if convicted, jailed for up to two years or fined up to $50,000, or both.
SINGAPORE - Former students of Ngee Ann Polytechnic lecturer Tan Boon Lee have accused him of making racially and religiously insensitive behaviour in the classroom.
One of them, Ms Nurul Iskandar, in an Instagram post on Wednesday (June 9), said Mr Tan had initiated an offensive discussion about Islam during lesson time, where he singled her out for being Muslim when she was his student about four years ago.
In a phone interview with reporters on Thursday (June 10), she said: "I remember that he opened up websites about Islam and explained why he didn't agree with certain Quranic verses.
"He then singled me out, and tried to start a debate on the topic. It didn't help that I was the only Muslim student in class and I sat in the front row."
Mr Tan is assisting the police with investigations after he was seen making racist remarks in a video to ice cream store owner Dave Parkash, 26, and his girlfriend Jacqueline Ho, 27, a user experience designer, in Orchard Road on Saturday (June 5) night.
The polytechnic has suspended him from teaching duties and it is conducting an internal investigation after the video surfaced online on Sunday.
Ms Nurul, who is now an electrical engineering student at the National University of Singapore, said the incident happened in July 2017.
She was a second-year electrical engineering student at the polytechnic at the time.
She said: "I remember being so affected by it that I sat outside the classroom with a friend waiting for him to finish talking."
She nearly stopped going for his classes after that, but decided not to because it was too close to the final examinations.
When asked about Ms Nurul's allegations, Mr Tan declined to comment "at the moment" but said he remembers her as a former student.
On Thursday, Ms Nurul said the experience in Mr Tan's class was difficult for her.
She said: "I was only 17 then, and was still fresh out of the madrasah, so I was still trying to adjust to the secular environment. Being singled out like that was very jarring for me."
Madrasahs are Islamic religious schools.
Ms Nurul said it was tough for her to speak up against her lecturer, as she was afraid that her scholarship would be at stake if things went badly.
"After all, I'm still being graded by the same lecturer so I felt it was wiser not to say anything about it," she said.
"And being the only minority in class, it was hard for me to speak out as I didn't have anyone behind me or to back me up, and I've always grown up with the mindset that I shouldn't cause any trouble," she added.
Ms Nurul finally mustered the courage to send an e-mail to the school about what happened. She never got a response, she said.
Reporters has contacted Ngee Ann poly for comment.
Since she put up the post about the incident on Instagram, Ms Nurul said more accounts about Mr Tan from other students have come to her attention.
One user on Instagram alleged that Mr Tan once made disparaging comments about Christianity in class, causing outrage among the students, while another alleged that the lecturer had made her take off her hijab, which covers the head.
"The hijab that I am proud of wearing became something that I felt ashamed of when he was around," the user wrote.
Asked if such incidents were common in school, Ms Nurul said that while there were cases of casual racism among the teachers, none of them were as "daring" as Mr Tan.
In her Instagram post, Ms Nurul said Mr Tan should not be allowed back in the classroom again because a "racist Islamophobe has no place educating our youth".
She wrote: "It is not enough to be anti-racist, it is not enough to be neutral. We need more people to step up, stand up and speak up against racism."
SINGAPORE - A cyclist who punched a lorry driver in a road rage incident was fined $5,600 on Thursday (June 10).
Jeffery Todd Martin, 57, a Canadian and a Singapore permanent resident, pleaded guilty to one count each of voluntarily causing hurt and riding his bicycle without due regard for the safety of others.
At about 10.20am on Feb 24, 2019, Martin was cycling in Jalan Eunos when a lorry overtook him.
He later overtook the lorry, pointing at the driver as he did so, and stopped in the middle of the lane in front of the vehicle.
This caused the lorry to stop amid moving traffic.
Martin got off his bike and hit the driver's window, hurling vulgarities at the driver as he did so.
The lorry driver, Chinese national Zhang Ping, 33, then moved his vehicle sharply towards Martin, forcing him to step away.
Zhang alighted from the lorry, holding an orange flask as he approached Martin.
Once confronted, Martin punched him in the face, causing Zhang to fall.
Martin later cycled away as Zhang remained in a daze sitting on the road.
Zhang suffered cuts on his lips as a result of the punch, and was given medical leave for two days.
He was previously dealt with, and was jailed for a week for one count of a rash act endangering others.
A 30-second video of the incident had gone viral after the incident in 2019, and Zhang had been arrested within 48 hours.
The same video was played in court on Thursday.
After playing the video for the court, Deputy Public Prosecutor Emily Koh said the prosecution would not be pushing for a custodial sentence, as the attack was one of low harm and culpability.
District Judge Brenda Tan noted that prior to the punch, it was Zhang who had come out from the vehicle to confront Martin.
She said that while the custodial threshold had not been crossed, a high fine was warranted.
For voluntarily causing hurt, Martin could have been jailed for up to two years on top of the maximum $5,000 fine he received for the charge.
For not riding his bicycle in an orderly manner with due regard for the safety of others, he could have been jailed for up to three months and fined up to $1,000.
7,000 market stallholders to get rental waivers to cope with decline in business during Covid-19 curbs
SINGAPORE - Market stallholders will be getting some help in coping with reduced business during this period of Covid-19 curbs.
A month's worth of rental waivers will be given to around 7,000 market stallholders in markets managed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) or NEA-appointed operators.
This was announced by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, on Thursday (June 10).
In a Facebook post, Dr Khor noted that during the ongoing phase of heightened alert to stem the spread of Covid-19, market stallholders were as affected by lower footfall as cooked-food stallholders.
Rental waivers for cooked-food stallholders in hawker centres, which have seen significant decline in business, had previously been announced in May.
The waivers covered half the amount payable for cooked-food stall rentals for May and June.
The latest announcement extends the current waiver scheme to market stallholders.
Five months' worth of rental waivers were also given to both market and cooked-food stallholders last year.
This aimed to reduce the operating costs for these stallholders amid flagging business due to restrictions during the Covid-19 crisis.
Dr Khor, who is also Senior Minister of State for Transport, encouraged both market and cooked-food stallholders facing significant income loss of at least 50 per cent as a result of the tightened measures to apply for a one-off payout of $500 under the Covid-19 Recovery Grant.
Added Dr Khor: "During these difficult times, let us all do our part to support one another, including our stallholders. Please support our hawker or market stalls with your next food purchase."
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SINGAPORE - A 34-year-old Singaporean housewife and former religious teacher has been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for planning to travel to Syria to take up armed violence for terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The Internal Security Department (ISD) on Wednesday (June 9) said Ruqayyah Ramli was radicalised by her husband, who was earlier arrested for similar offences. She had failed to respond to religious counselling after his arrest, and refused to turn away from her radical path.
Ruqayyah, who was detained in April, had previously been issued a restriction order (RO) under the ISA in August last year, after her husband was detained under the Act.
"Since being placed on RO however, there has been an escalation in Ruqayyah's radical behaviour and involvement in activities prejudicial to Singapore's security," said the ISD.
"Ruqayyah has refused to make any genuine effort to participate in the rehabilitation programme, and remains entrenched in her radical beliefs. She continues to support ISIS' violent actions and believes in the use of violence against the perceived enemies of Islam."
Under the restriction order, a person is not allowed to change their residence, employment or travel out of Singapore without official approval. They are also barred from issuing public statements or joining organisations without approval.
ISD said Ruqayyah had persisted in communicating online with overseas ISIS supporters who were associates of her husband, in breach of her RO condition.
"She was thus detained to prevent her from progressing further down the violent radical path," the ISD added.
Ruqayyah, who was accredited by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) in September 2017, has had her accreditation suspended.
In February, the ISD said Ruqayyah's husband, Mohd Firdaus Kamal Intdzam, a Malaysian who worked as a cleaner here, had been arrested under the ISA in July 2020 and deported to Malaysia.
Investigations revealed that Firdaus started being radicalised in 2016, when he went online to deepen his religious knowledge and was exposed to pro-ISIS content.
The ISD found that Firdaus had regarded a self-declared leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as the true Islamic ruler. Even after ISIS' so-called caliphate fell in the late 2010s, he remained a fervent supporter of ISIS by actively posting materials promoting ISIS and armed jihad on his social media accounts.
Firdaus had even created an ISIS flag in March 2020, which he hung at home to show his loyalty towards the group. He believed armed jihad, or struggle in the name of Islam, was compulsory for all able-bodied Muslim men.
In addition to travelling to Syria to take up arms, Firdaus was also willing to carry out attacks against countries which he deemed to be oppressing Muslims, or which he saw as being hypocritical for aligning themselves with the West, said the ISD.
This is the second time an accredited religious teacher has been issued an order under the ISA.
In 2019, former freelance religious teacher Murad Mohd Said, a former principal of Madrasah Al-Arabiah Al-Islamiah, was placed on a restriction order for segregationist ideologies that promoted violence and views detrimental to Singapore's cohesion.
On Wednesday, the ISD also said a 36-year-old Singaporean, Ahmed Hussein Abdul Kadir Sheik Uduman, was issued a restriction order in May.
He was previously detained under the ISA in August 2018 for supporting ISIS, but this was cancelled in October 2019 after he was sentenced to 30 months in jail for terrorism-financing offences under the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act.
The ISD continued to rehabilitate Hussein during his imprisonment, and the department said he has since made good progress. He has been assessed to no longer pose a security threat requiring preventive detention, said the ISD.
The department added that it has released two self-radicalised Singaporeans from detention under the ISA in May, as they have shown good progress in their rehabilitation and were assessed to no longer pose a security threat requiring preventive detention.
The first is Mohamed Faishal Mohd Razali, 30, who was detained under the ISA in April 2018 as he had aspirations of pursuing armed violence in overseas conflicts. He was released on a suspension direction in May.
A suspension direction has the same restrictions as a restriction order, but a person who breaches it can be automatically redetained under the ISA.
A person under a restriction order who persists in their radical views, as in the case of Ruqayyah, or breaches its restrictions, may be issued an order of detention.
The second person released in May is Kuthubdeen Haja Najumudeen, 38, who was a follower of Sri Lankan radical preacher Zahran Hashim, the mastermind of the deadly Easter Sunday terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka on April 21, 2019. Haja was released on a restriction order in May.
SINGAPORE - A man who is allegedly behind a series of cat slashings in Ang Mo Kio has been charged.
Leow Wei Liang, 37, was handed one charge of animal cruelty on Wednesday (June 9).
He is accused of slashing a white cat with grey patches with a penknife on May 2 at the carpark staircase of Block 352A Ang Mo Kio Street 32, at about 11am.
During the mention of his case in court conducted remotely, Leow, who was in police custody, refused to appear in shot of the camera.
On the video stream, he could be heard wailing on the ground as officers tried to get him to stand up.
Despite this, District Judge Marvin Bay noted that he was present.
Leow could be heard saying in Mandarin that he did not want to go to jail and pleading to be released.
The prosecution said Leow is believed to be behind the series of cat slashings in Ang Mo Kio, and asked for him to be remanded at the Institute of Mental Health for two weeks.
The judge agreed to this, citing Leow's behaviour in court as a valid reason.
Leow was arrested on Tuesday morning by the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS), which is under the National Parks Board (NParks), with the support of the police.
Since late April, at least 10 cats have been found with deep cuts on their bodies.
The attacks happened between Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8 and Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1.
As a result of the string of cat slashings, some of the neighbourhood cats in the area in Ang Mo Kio were placed in boarding facilities in Lim Chu Kang and at The Animal Lodge.
In a statement on Tuesday, NParks group director of community animal management Jessica Kwok said the safeguarding of animal welfare is a shared social responsibility.
She urged members of the public to promptly report suspected cases of animal cruelty to the AVS.
AVS can be reached at this website or on 1800-476-1600.
Leow is expected to be back in court on June 23 for further mention of his case.
If convicted of animal cruelty, he may be jailed for up to 18 months, or fined up to $15,000, or both.
Repeat offenders may be jailed for up to three years, or fined up to $30,000, or both.
SINGAPORE - Of the roughly 62,000 Covid-19 cases recorded in Singapore as at end-May, 550 had been infected with the Delta variant of the coronavirus first detected in India.
This figure includes 428 local and 122 imported cases, the Ministry of Health (MOH) told reporters on Tuesday (June 8).
"Variants are detected through viral genomic sequencing, and in Singapore, the National Public Health Laboratory performs sequencing for all confirmed Covid-19 cases," said an MOH spokesman.
"This is unlike some countries who typically sequence a smaller proportion of their confirmed cases."
The ministry was responding to queries from ST on the proportion of Covid-19 cases in Singapore infected with the Delta variant.
According to data on global database GISAID that reporters accessed on Wednesday, 20 people in Singapore were infected with the Delta variant in the past four weeks.
GISAID is an online platform where research groups from all over the world can upload genetic sequences of the virus that causes Covid-19.
The 20 cases account for about 87 per cent of the Covid-19 cases from Singapore reported on that platform over the same period.
Given that variants of concern are thought to be more transmissible, this number may seem alarmingly high. But experts caution that data on GISAID is not reflective of the national situation.
Associate Professor Raymond Lin, director of the National Public Health Laboratory at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), said submission to GISAID is voluntary - it is up to laboratories which cases to select and how many sequences to upload.
"If there is no submission from a country, the entry will state 'the lowest in the world'. So comparison of numbers submitted and reported on GISAID may not be as meaningful," Prof Lin said.
For instance, the platform on Wednesday reflected zero delta variant cases in Canada, Argentina and Sri Lanka over the past four weeks.
Prof Lin added that GISAID data may instead be more indicative of a country's overall capacity and resources for sequencing.
"In Singapore, we perform sequencing for all confirmed cases, however, not all cases have successful sequencing due to inadequacy of specimen material. All those with high-quality sequence, we submit to GISAID," he said.
Genomic sequencing refers to the technique used by public health authorities and researchers to "read" the genetic sequence of a pathogen.
While the genetic code of the pathogen that causes Covid-19 is largely the same, variants will show slight differences in their genetic code.
Since this sequence is unique to each variant, this technique allows the authorities and scientists to identify them.
Dr Sebastian Maurer-Stroh, executive director of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's (A*Star) Bioinformatics Institute, agreed with Prof Lin, saying countries with more intense sequencing efforts will rank high on GISAID.
But he added: "Higher number of genomes is not a sign of having more of a specific variant than other countries unless both compared countries have the same surveillance intensity. For example, it is not true that Britain has more Delta variant cases than India."
GISAID data showed that there were 16,779 Delta variant Covid-19 cases in Britain over the past four weeks, compared with India's 330.
Dr Maurer-Stroh said that to get a better picture of how prevalent a variant is, it is more useful to look at the frequency of variants in countries with high genomic surveillance effort.
He cited how the proportion of cases infected with the Delta variant in Britain rose from 25 per cent a few weeks ago to the current figure of 67.5 per cent reflected on the site on Wednesday.
As for Singapore, GISAID data last week showed the proportion of Covid-19 Delta variant cases at 91 per cent, compared with the 87 per cent reflected on Wednesday.
The MOH spokesman said all necessary action to protect public health has been taken promptly, including isolating and ring-fencing Covid-19 cases in the community. Imported cases have also been isolated upon arrival in Singapore.
"We have also stepped up our testing, contact tracing and vaccination programme to keep Covid-19 under control," she said.
While the Delta variant appears to be more transmissible, Singapore has adapted its measures accordingly and the number of locally transmitted cases has decreased over the last two weeks.
Said the MOH spokesman: "Studies are ongoing to get a more complete understanding of these variants and we will adjust our strategies as more information is made available."
MOH figures also show that the number of local Delta variant cases in Singapore is the highest caused by a variant of concern, among four such variants that have been detected here.
Variants of concern are more easily transmitted from person to person.
As at May 31, a total of 449 local cases of infection involve a variant of concern. They include:
- 428 people infected with the Delta variant
- Seven people infected with the Alpha variant, first detected in Britain
- Nine people infected with the Beta variant, first detected in South Africa
- Five people infected with the Gamma variant, first detected in Brazil
NCID's Prof Lin said that the properties of variants of concern are still under study.
"Singapore's sequencing efforts have been focused on helping to determine the chain of transmission leading to clusters of cases. By understanding that, we try to interrupt or reduce such transmission," he added.
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