Disgruntled ICA officer admits falsely alleging that former supervisor took photos of man's privates

Disgruntled ICA officer admits falsely alleging that former supervisor took photos of man's privates

State Courts 05
File photo of the State Courts in Singapore (Photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: Angry with his previous supervisor, an Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officer sent an email under an alias to management, claiming his former boss could have taken photos of a man's privates.

Thomas Foo Jian Yao, 29, intended to have senior management investigate the victim, but his tale unravelled during police investigations.

Foo admitted on Monday (Mar 16) to one charge of giving false information to a public servant.

The court heard that Foo was an Assistant Superintendent at ICA under Superintendent Lee Teck Seng for two years from October 2016.

Foo was angry with the victim as he felt the latter had discredited him in front of his superiors. He felt the victim had raised certain unspecified matters to Foo's new supervisor instead of resolving them directly with Foo.

He decided to send a false complaint to ICA senior management, intending to cause them to initiate investigations against his former supervisor.

SENT FAKE EMAIL WHILE ON HOLIDAY

While on holiday in Phuket, Thailand in August last year, Foo set up an email account and bought a phone and SIM card for his cause.

He sent an email to nine members of ICA's senior management at about 2.40am on Aug 8, 2019, including the ICA Commissioner.

He claimed to be a counsellor named Joseph and said he was with his son in the toilet at Seah Im Food Centre when he saw the victim using his phone.

He claimed that the victim was pointing the camera at another person and could be taking pictures of his private parts. He said the victim then boarded an ICA shuttle bus. 

Foo also attached an image of his former supervisor's face in the email, which ended with: "I am not going to blow things up. I just want this person, if really he took such photos, to internally receive some counselling and advice."

The email sparked a chain of emails within ICA and a police report was lodged. 

The police sought the email sender's help with investigations, but Foo replied saying he did not have time to go down for an interview.  

He added that he did not want the matter to blow up and that while he was sure he saw "the camera mode on and viewing the other person's private parts", he was "not sure whether he really did take the picture". 

POLICE IDENTIFY FOO

Police eventually identified Foo and traced the file information of the victim's photo to Phuket, Thailand.

The reply email Foo sent to police was traced to Century Square mall, sent via public Wi-Fi, and he was identified through police cameras and closed-circuit television footage.

When hauled up for investigations, Foo admitted to the police in early September 2019 that he had sent the emails and that the allegations were false.

Because of his actions, the victim was unnecessarily subjected to investigations, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Emily Koh.

The victim's house and office were raided on Aug 8, 2019, the day a police report was filed by ICA, and his phone seized.

Police also checked his work laptop and iPads belonging to his family members, and interviewed the victim and took his statements.

"Significant public resources were expended and these investigations would have continued, had it not been for the fact that the accused was identified by the police," said Ms Koh.

"DELIBERATE AND VINDICTIVE ACT": PROSECUTION

She pushed for a sentence of at least 12 weeks' jail, saying Foo had gone to "great lengths" to conceal his identity by using an alias and buying a new phone in Thailand to send the fake complaint.

"The false allegations were made maliciously and significant harm was caused to the victim and his family, not to mention the considerable investigative resources wasted," she said.

She added that Foo had intended to undermine the victim's position as a superintendent with ICA in what she called a "deliberate and vindictive act".

"The accused bore a grudge against the victim and targeted him, in order to exact revenge for what he perceived was mistreatment by the victim at the workplace," said Ms Koh.

She added that Foo was an assistant superintendent at ICA and would have been "intimately familiar" with the serious repercussions of such a false allegation.

CLIENT WANTS TO CHANGE: DEFENCE

Defence lawyer Raphael Louis asked instead for a short detention order, saying his client really wants to change and has started counselling.

"He didn't go to Phuket to commit the offence. He went there actually to take his mind off so that he can overcome this emotional issue he had with the victim, the break-down of the working relationship," said the lawyer. "I concede that while he was in Phuket, he couldn't overcome and there was some degree of planning."

He said Foo gave his full cooperation when he returned to Singapore and was confronted, adding that he has since done a lot of self-reflection.

He is now trying to undergo a career change so he can help others who may face similar situations, said the lawyer.

Foo will return to court for mitigation and sentencing on Apr 16.

For knowingly giving false information to a public servant, he could be jailed for up to a year and fined up to S$5,000 or both.

In response to CNA’s queries, ICA said Foo had been suspended since Dec 5 last year and resigned from ICA last month. ICA added that it takes a serious view of errant officers and that its officers are expected to maintain a high standard of integrity and conduct themselves professionally at all times.

“Officers who break the law will be dealt with, in accordance with the law,” said the spokesperson.

Source: CNA/ll(hs)

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