SINGAPORE - Two commanders from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) who were previously convicted of reduced charges in the 2018 ragging death case will face their original, more serious charges, following a decision by the High Court.
On Monday (April 5), Justice See Kee Oon ruled that former Tuas View Fire Station rota commander Kenneth Chong Chee Boon, 40, and his deputy Nazhan Mohamed Nazi, 42, were guilty of intentionally aiding the servicemen to cause grievous hurt to Corporal (CPL) Kok Yuen Chin by doing a rash act which endangered human life.
Cpl Kok, who was 22, drowned in a pump well during the ragging incident in May 2018.
The two officers were each sentenced to 10 weeks' jail in September last year for their involvement, after they were convicted of acting negligently.
Senior District Judge Ong Hian Sun had said then that they had been "grossly negligent".
But in his oral remarks on Monday, Justice See said Judge Ong had erred in finding that the prosecution had failed to prove the more serious charges against the two accused persons, and that the original charges had been proved beyond reasonable doubt.
He allowed the prosecution's appeals and convicted both accused, and will hear submissions on sentencing and their mitigation pleas at a later date.
For abetting the causing of grievous hurt by a rash act, the commanders could be jailed for up to four years, or fined up to $10,000, or both.
SINGAPORE - Eight people were prosecuted for selling electronic vaporisers (e-vaporisers) and related items in Singapore between November 2020 and February this year.
Goods worth more than $50,000 were seized from them.
The eight, aged 26 to 41, whose cases were unrelated, were fined a total of $172,500, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) said on Monday (April 5).
The highest penalty of one week's jail and a fine of $61,000 was meted out to repeat offender Akmal Syafiq Marzuki, 33.
He had bought the illegal items from suppliers overseas and sold them through four accounts on online platforms Instagram and Carousell.
His activities were detected and disrupted by HSA officers.
E-vaporisers, which include e-cigarettes and e-cigars, are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid containing nicotine to produce a vapour which is inhaled.
Another online seller, Sarah Davinia Ng See Mun, 32, was fined $11,000 for selling e-vaporisers on Carousell and WhatsApp.
She advertised the devices as "Shisha Time Disposable Electronic Hookahs" which came in flavours such as menthol, blueberry and grape.
Interested buyers would message her on the platforms.
She operated the business with her husband, who assisted in delivering the products to customers. He was issued a warning for delivering the banned products.
HSA also prosecuted 25-year-old Chia Wen Zhe for possessing an e-vaporiser. He was fined $500.
HSA has been dealing with more e-vaporiser cases over the last few years.
In 2017 and 2018, it handled 1,744 e-vaporiser cases. This grew to 4,676 cases in 2019 and 2020.
A total of 43 people were prosecuted for the sale of e-vaporisers and related items between January 2018 and February this year.
The highest fine meted out so far was $99,000 in 2019, to a man who bought the vaporisers from various overseas suppliers, and advertised and resold them on the website huntersbrew.net
Under the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act, it is illegal to import, distribute or sell harmful or imitation tobacco products which include shisha tobacco, smokeless tobacco and chewing tobacco such as Gutkha, Khaini, Zarda, as well as e-vaporisers and their accessories, HSA said.
Anyone found guilty of the offence can be fined up to $10,000 or jailed for up to six months, or both.
A repeat offender can be fined a maximum of $20,000 on each charge, or imprisoned a maximum of 12 months, or both.
ORANGE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA - Four people, including a child, were killed in a shooting at an office building in Southern California on Wednesday (March 31), the authorities said, bringing a deadly close to a month consumed by a series of high-profile cases of gun violence.
The gunfire occurred around 5.30pm local time in Orange, California, about 30 miles (48km) south-east of Los Angeles, according to the police, who said a fifth victim, a woman, was hospitalised in critical condition with a gunshot wound.
A suspect was also hospitalised in critical condition with a gunshot wound, the authorities said, although they added that it was not yet known if the wound was self-inflicted.
It was not immediately clear what prompted the shooting, and additional details about the victims and the suspect were not available from the authorities. They said a firearm had been recovered at the scene, which covered two floors and a courtyard area of an unidentified business.
Lieutenant Jennifer Amat, a spokesman for the Orange Police Department, said at a news conference on Wednesday night that officers had responded to the area of 202 West Lincoln Avenue near Glassell Street after reports of shots fired.
When officers arrived, the shots were still being fired and the police found several victims, police said.
Ms Emma Soto, 26, who lives in an apartment near the building, said she was doing laundry when she heard seven to 10 gunshots.
“It just sounded like a popping sound,” she said. “It didn’t really sound like how you would imagine it, like in the movies. We’re hearing of all these shootings going on, so I just thought, ‘another shooting'. But we never imagined it would be that close to us.”
Almost immediately after hearing the gunfire, Ms Soto said, several police vehicles pulled up. She watched as officers emerged from the vehicles with their weapons drawn. The officers ran towards the building, she said.
The neighbourhood is typically quiet and peaceful, and is largely Hispanic, said Ms Soto, a manager at a nearby big-box store. “It’s scary,” she said.
Ms Hope Orozco, 27, said she was with her three-year-old son at a neighbour’s house when she heard the gunfire. She said her son likes to watch her neighbour’s children play Call Of Duty, the popular combat video game. At first, she said, she mistook the commotion outside for the sounds of the game.
“I was like, ‘wait a minute, is this from the TV?’” Ms Orozco said. She realised it was real after noticing all the players were connected to headsets.
Orange is a city of 139,000 less than 6 miles (9.7km) from Disneyland. The beige, low-rise building houses several businesses, including a property management company, an insurance agency and a consulting firm. Residents said they believed the shooting happened at a real estate office on the second floor.
The owner of a car repair shop next door, who asked not to be named, said he heard around four gunshots. A few minutes later, he said, the police surrounded the building.
He heard at least 10 more gunshots after that, he said, although he still did not know exactly what had happened.
“It was weird to have something like that happening next door,” he said. “We had never heard anything like that before.”
Ms Amat called the shooting “a tragedy for the victims, their families, our community and our police department”. She said that Wednesday’s shooting was the worst homicide in Orange since a rampage in 1997 at a Caltrans maintenance yard in which a gunman killed four people and was later killed by the police in a shootout.
Governor Gavin Newsom of California said on Twitter that he had been jolted by the shooting.
“Horrifying and heartbreaking,” he said. “Our hearts are with the families impacted by this terrible tragedy tonight.”
Representative Katie Porter, a Democrat whose district includes part of Orange, expressed her sorrow on Twitter.
“I’m deeply saddened by reports of a mass shooting in Orange County, and I’m continuing to keep victims and their loved ones in my thoughts as we continue to learn more,” she said. “My team and I will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
This past month, two mass shootings – one in Atlanta and the other in Boulder, Colorado – occurred within the span of one week. In Atlanta on March 16, a gunman shot and killed eight people, six of them women of Asian descent, at three spas. On March 22, a man stormed a grocery store in Boulder and killed 10 people.
Until the shooting in Atlanta, it had been a year since there had been a large-scale shooting in a public place, according to the Violence Project.
ZURICH - A robot armed with virus-killing ultraviolet light is being tested on Swiss airplanes, yet another idea aiming to restore passenger confidence and spare the travel industry more pandemic pain.
UVeya, a Swiss start-up, is conducting the trials of the robots with Dubai-based airport services company Dnata inside Embraer jets from Helvetic Airways, a charter airline owned by Swiss billionaire Martin Ebner.
Aircraft-makers still must certify the devices and are studying the impact their ultraviolet light may have on interior upholstery, which could fade after many disinfections, UVeya co-founder Jodoc Elmiger said.
Still, he is hopeful that robot cleaners will reduce the fear of flying, even as Covid-19 circulates.
"This is a proven technology, it's been used for over 50 years in hospitals and laboratories, it's very efficient," Mr Elmiger said on Wednesday (March 31). "It doesn't leave any trace or residue."
Mr Elmiger's team has built three prototypes so far, one of which he demonstrated inside a Helvetic jet at the Zurich Airport, where traffic plunged 75 per cent last year.
The robot's lights, mounted on a crucifix-shaped frame, cast everything in a soft-blue glow as it slowly moved up the Embraer's aisle. One robot can disinfect a single-aisled plane in 13 minutes, start to finish, though larger planes take longer.
Dnata executives hope airplane makers will sign off on the robots - Elmiger estimates they will sell for 15,000 Swiss francs (S$21,339) or so - as governments require new measures to ensure air travellers do not fall sick.
"We were looking for a sustainable, and also environmentally friendly solution, to cope with those requests," said Mr Lukas Gyger, Dnata's chief operating officer in Switzerland.
While privately owned Helvetic has not needed bailouts like much of the industry, its business has also been gutted, with its fleet sitting largely silently in hangars. UVeya's ultraviolet robots may help change that, said Helvetic spokesman Mehdi Guenin.
"If our passengers, if our crew know our aircraft are safe - that there are no viruses or bacteria - it could help them to fly again," Mr Guenin said.
SINGAPORE - A 21-year-old man has been arrested by the Traffic Police for traffic and suspected drug-related offences after he tried to evade their checks in a high-speed chase.
The incident happened on Tuesday (March 30) at about 10.30pm.
Land Transport Authority (LTA) enforcement officers were conducting routine checks along Farrer Road towards Queensway and had signalled for a motorcycle to stop, police said on Thursday.
The rider allegedly did not comply and sped off towards Queensway.
The LTA officers followed the motorcycle, which later hit a roadside kerb and came to a stop along Dover Rise, about 4.5km away.
The rider then allegedly fled on foot but was detained by the officers along Dover Crescent. They later asked for police assistance.
Police investigations are ongoing.
Data analyst George Bryden, 25, was crossing the road to Dover Rise on his way home when he heard the sound of a siren and a screeching noise.
He then saw the rear wheel of the motorcycle in the air and the motorcycle flip over with the rider falling off.
"For a few seconds, the rider tried to fight the officer. The rider was pinned to the ground at one point but managed to escape.
"He picked up his helmet and ran to the void deck with the officer in pursuit," said Mr Bryden.
He added that as he continued his walk home, another officer was seen talking to residents, and the rider, who was limping, was being escorted by the officer.
SINGAPORE - Enhanced security screening measures similar to airport checks kicked off at selected MRT stations on Thursday (April 1).
Checks, including metal detector screening and X-ray scans, were conducted at random.
The Straits Times observed that for the most part, the enhanced screening was implemented smoothly at Bukit Gombak station on the North-South Line and Kembangan station on the East-West Line.
At each station, up to four privately-contracted transit security officers were positioned with screening equipment just before the fare gate.
From 10.20am to 10.30am at Bukit Gombak station, eight commuters, all carrying bags, were approached at random to undergo the screening.
They were asked to empty their pockets and place all their belongings in a tray that went through an X-ray scanner.
After crossing a walk-through metal detector, they were scanned by a security officer using a handheld metal detector.
For most of them, the entire process took under 30 seconds.
Several curious onlookers stopped to watch as well as read signs on two large standees.
One displayed a list of prohibited and controlled items such as knives, firearms and other weapons, while the other asked commuters to inform the screening officers of medical conditions or medical implants.
At Bukit Gombak station, Madam Coco Wong, 60, was slightly confused when asked to undergo the screening process.
The housewife told reporters that she was worried that she would get into trouble for having food in her bag. Madam Wong, who speaks only Mandarin, also could not understand the security officer's instructions in English.
"It's quite troublesome and will take up time if I'm in a rush," she said.
But designer Muhd Fauzi, who was screened at Kembangan station, said the process was fast and of minimal inconvenience.
The 29-year-old was one of five commuters to be scanned between 12.30pm and 12.50pm.
He and Madam Wong said they understood that the check was a basic security measure, but were not aware of any need for stepped-up efforts.
"I'm not sure why, I don't read the news," said Madam Wong. "But I do feel safer with this implemented."
At Farrer Park station on the North East Line, security equipment was cordoned off and not in use on Thursday.
The screening equipment will be rotated periodically across MRT stations on all rail lines.
These measures work together with the Threat-Oriented Person Screening Integrated System (Topsis), a threat assessment programme under which more than 30,000 public transport staff have been trained to keep a lookout for suspicious items, people and activities, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said on Wednesday.
The roll-out on Thursday followed a six-month trial that began in November 2018.
Reporters understands that the larger roll-out of the enhanced screening measures took some time to implement owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
SINGAPORE - There were 34 new coronavirus cases confirmed at noon on Wednesday (March 31), taking Singapore's total to 60,381.
There was one new case in the community, and 33 imported ones.
The 33 imported cases had been placed on stay-home notice or isolated on arrival in Singapore, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).
There were no cases from migrant workers' dormitories.
More details will be announced on Wednesday night.
Tuesday saw 26 imported Covid-19 infections, which included seven Singaporeans and three permanent residents. They returned from Bangladesh, India, Qatar, Spain and Britain.
There were also three student's pass holders who arrived from Bangladesh and India.
Another two were work pass holders who travelled from India and Nepal.
There were also seven work permit holders who arrived from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and the Philippines, of whom five were foreign domestic workers.
The remaining four patients were short-term visit pass holders.
Two of them travelled from India to visit their family members while two were in Singapore for work projects, said MOH.
It added that the number of new cases in the community had increased from none in the week before, to two cases in the past week.
The number of unlinked cases in the community had also increased from zero to two in the same period.
With seven cases discharged on Tuesday, 60,123 have fully recovered from the disease.
A total of 37 patients remained in hospital, including one in critical condition in the intensive care unit, while 142 were still recuperating in community facilities.
Singapore has had 30 deaths from Covid-19 complications, while 15 who tested positive have died of other causes.
Globally, the virus outbreak, which began in December 2019, has infected more than 127 million people. More than 2.79 million people have died.
SINGAPORE - Magician S. Chandran was on Wednesday (March 31) sentenced to three years' jail and ordered to pay a penalty of $295,272 for causing a government agency to disburse $73,818 in public funds to individuals who made bogus claims.
He will spend an additional 30 weeks behind bars if unable to pay the amount.
The Singaporean was found guilty last July of three counts of helping three individuals make fraudulent claims under the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme, an Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) initiative meant to boost productivity.
The 46-year-old, who the prosecutors described as the mastermind of the ruse, still has 55 other charges against him. These will be dealt with at a later date.
The PIC scheme had offered tax deductions or cash payouts to companies that made genuine investments to enhance productivity and innovation, such as by investing in staff training, information technology or automation equipment.
As part of the conditions, businesses had to employ at least three local employees before they were eligible for the PIC cash payouts.
Chandran, who was the sole proprietor of a firm called Paradize Consultancy, had helped others obtain the monies even though they were not eligible for the scheme.
The trio - Mahendran Rajoo, Shanti Peerisamy and Crystal Priya Ragavan - received their monies in 2014. They were all dealt with earlier.
For his role in the ruse, the court ordered Mahendran to pay a $49,212 penalty in 2017. He was also given the maximum $5,000 fine.
Reporters understands that the two women were given conditional warnings.
In earlier proceedings, it was revealed that Chandran had helped Mahendran register a sole proprietorship called M Midhuna.
Chandran was aware that the company had no employees. Despite this, he "instigated and convinced" Mahendran to make a bogus PIC claim, said prosecutors.
Chandran committed similar offences with the two women.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Sanjiv Vaswani, as well as Iras prosecutors Norman Teo and Christopher Lim, said the trio had handed half of their ill-gotten gains to Chandran.
On Wednesday, Mr Teo urged the court to sentence Chandran to three years' jail with a penalty of $295,272.
Mr Teo also pressed for him to be given an additional 30 weeks' jail if he is unable to pay the amount.
Stressing that Chandran's offences were difficult to detect, the prosecutor added: "The offender was the mastermind behind this whole fraudulent PIC scheme. He was the one that devised the falsity to portray to Iras that the PIC claims made were legitimate when in fact they were not."
Chandran, who was unrepresented, told District Judge Kessler Soh that he is the sole breadwinner of his family and that a jail term would cause his loved ones to lose financial support.
He also said that he has "major depression" and is undergoing treatment for the condition.
Chandran intends to appeal against his conviction and sentence. He was offered bail of $200,000 on Wednesday.
SINGAPORE: Twenty-six new COVID-19 cases were reported in Singapore as of noon on Tuesday (Mar 30), all imported infections.
All the cases were placed on stay-home notice upon arrival in Singapore, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in its preliminary daily update.
No locally transmitted cases were reported for a third consecutive day.
Details of the new cases will be released on Tuesday night, said MOH.
SINGAPORE STUDYING TRAVEL BUBBLE WITH HONG KONG
Singapore is studying a proposal from Hong Kong to reopen borders safely, said Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung on Monday.
"We are very happy that Hong Kong has in recent weeks kept the pandemic under good control. This is a very positive development," Mr Ong said in a statement.
"We have received a proposal from Hong Kong to reopen borders safely. We are studying it and will be responding to Hong Kong shortly."
Singapore and Hong Kong were scheduled to launch an air travel bubble in November last year, but it was deferred after Hong Kong saw a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said this month he hoped Singapore would start reopening its borders by the end of the year as more countries ramp up vaccination drives against COVID-19.
"Hopefully by the end of this year or next year, the doors can start to open, if not earlier," he said.
As of Tuesday, Singapore has reported a total of 60,347 COVID-19 cases.
SINGAPORE: An additional three months of support will be made available under the COVID-19 Recovery Grant for those who need further assistance and continue to meet the requirements, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said on Tuesday (Mar 30).
Current grant recipients can apply to renew their support from Apr 19, if they are in the final month of assistance or if assistance has already ended.
The COVID-19 Recovery Grant was launched on Jan 18 to support lower- to middle-income workers and self-employed people affected by the pandemic.
It has supported more than 10,000 people and disbursed about S$10 million as of Mar 22, said MSF in a media release.
"The ongoing pandemic and its economic impact continue to affect some Singaporeans' financial and employment prospects," said the ministry.
With this addition, people can now receive a maximum of two tranches, or six months in total, of support from the COVID-19 Recovery Grant.
Applicants can apply online for the grant from 9am to 10pm until Apr 18, including weekends and public holidays. From Apr 19, the application portal will operate around the clock.
Current grant recipients must continue to meet the eligibility criteria, including active participation in job search and training, said MSF.
"It is important for (self-employed people) to continue playing a role in their healthcare adequacy through saving for their healthcare needs," added the ministry.
Self-employed people must therefore not have any outstanding Medisave contributions, or must be committed to making contributions via a GIRO plan to qualify for renewal of grant support.
First-time applicants can also apply for the grant. Applications for the grant remain open until Dec 31.
Each tranche of the COVID-19 Recovery Grant provides the following support to eligible Singaporeans and permanent residents aged 21 years old and above:
- Up to S$700 a month for three months, for employees who have been retrenched or had their contracts terminated, or placed on no-pay leave for at least three consecutive months;
- Up to S$500 a month for three months, for employees facing salary loss of at least 50 per cent on average for at least three consecutive months; and
- Up to S$500 a month for three months, for self-employed people facing an average loss in net trade income of at least 50 per cent over a period of at least three consecutive months compared to their average monthly net trade income in 2019 or 2020.