COVID-19: Public servant arrested under OSA for allegedly sharing classified information about Phase 2

COVID-19: Public servant arrested under OSA for allegedly sharing classified information about Phase 2

A police officer arresting a suspect in Singapore
File photo of a police officer arresting a suspect. (Photo: Hanidah Amin)

SINGAPORE: A 50-year-old public servant was arrested on Saturday (Jun 13) under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for allegedly sharing classified information on post-"circuit breaker" plans that he was an authorised recipient of.

The police said on Sunday they received a report on Friday that information about Phase 2 of the resumption of activities was circulating via WhatsApp messages among members of the public.

"Preliminary investigations revealed that the man, who is a public servant and an authorised recipient of classified information on post-circuit breaker plans, had allegedly shared the information via WhatsApp on Jun 11, 2020, with members of a private WhatsApp chat group who were not authorised to receive the classified information," the police said in a news release.  

"The information was subsequently further disseminated from this chat group, resulting in wider circulation of the message."

Investigations are ongoing, the police added.

Anyone found guilty of wrongful communication of information could be fined up to S$2,000 and imprisoned for up to two years.

"Unauthorised recipients should also not further circulate the confidential information received, as they may be similarly liable under the Official Secrets Act," the police said.

"The Government takes a serious view of any wrongful communication of confidential information and will deal firmly with anyone who does so," they added.

PREVIOUS CASES

In April, three people were arrested under the OSA for wrongful communication of information related to COVID-19. 

On Apr 23, police said a 35-year-old civil servant was arrested for allegedly leaking COVID-19 case figures on WeChat before they were officially released.

The woman was also accused of accessing a Government COVID-19 database without authorisation to retrieve confidential records of a person who had tested positive for COVID-19, and giving the information to a friend, added the police.

She was arrested for wrongful communication of information under the OSA and unauthorised access to computer materials under the Computer Misuse Act.

The information shared on WeChat was then “further disseminated” before it was officially released by MOH.

“Further investigations found that the woman had previously shared daily COVID-19 case figures with the group before the figures were officially released on several other occasions,” police said on Apr 23.

She was suspended by MOH while police investigations are ongoing, the health ministry said on Apr 24.

In another case, on Apr 5, the police said they arrested a 37-year-old public servant and her husband for allegedly circulating a draft of a joint media statement announcing that schools were moving into full home-based learning, and that pre-schools and student care centres would be closed.

The joint statement by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and the Ministry of Education (MOE) detailed new learning arrangements and school closures, and were leaked before they were officially released, police said.

The public servant was an authorised recipient of the media statement and had allegedly taken a screenshot of it and shared it with her husband on WhatsApp, who then shared the information with his friends.

Source: CNA/mi(ac)

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