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Former civil servant to be charged under Official Secrets Act over leak of COVID-19 case numbers last year

Former civil servant to be charged under Official Secrets Act over leak of COVID-19 case numbers last year

File photo of a gavel. (Photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: A 36-year-old former civil servant will be charged under the Official Secrets Act on Wednesday (Apr 14) after allegedly leaking Singapore's daily COVID-19 case numbers before they were officially released.

She will also be charged under the Computer Misuse Act after allegedly retrieving confidential records on a COVID-19 case at the request of another person.

The woman was an authorised recipient of confidential information on COVID-19, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said in a news release on Tuesday.

She is suspected of sharing the number of new COVID-19 cases on 22 occasions between March and April last year with members of a private chat group who were not authorised to receive the information.

Members of the chat group allegedly further disseminated the case numbers before their official release by the Ministry of Health (MOH).

The woman was arrested in April last year after the police received a report on Apr 16, 2020 that the number of COVID-19 cases for that day had been published on an Instagram Stories post, even though MOH had not officially released the figures yet.

MOH announced on Apr 24 it had suspended an officer accused of leaking COVID-19 case numbers and accessing information without authorisation.

The former civil servant will be charged for wrongful communication of information under the Official Secrets Act, said SPF on Tuesday.

A total of 64 others who wrongfully received or communicated the information will be issued with stern warnings or written advisories for offences under the Official Secrets Act.

ACCESSED GOVERNMENT COVID-19 DATABASE

Investigations revealed that a member of the chat group, another 36-year-old woman, also allegedly asked the then civil servant to check on the case status of a patient who had tested positive for COVID-19, said SPF.

"The civil servant then allegedly accessed a Government COVID-19 database to retrieve confidential records and provided the information to the woman," said the police.

For accessing the Government COVID-19 database for this unlawful purpose, the former civil servant will be charged for unauthorised access to computer materials under the Computer Misuse Act, said SPF.

The other woman will be charged with soliciting wrongful communication of information and other offences of wrongful communication of information under the Official Secrets Act.

If found guilty of an offence under the Official Secrets Act, both women face a jail term of up to two years and a fine of up to S$2,000.

For an offence under the Computer Misuse Act, the other woman also faces a jail term of up to two years and a fine of up to S$5,000.

"The authorities take a serious view of any breach of the Official Secrets Act," said the police.

"Unauthorised recipients should delete and not further circulate any confidential information received, as they may otherwise be similarly liable under the Official Secrets Act."

OTHER CASES BEING INVESTIGATED UNDER OFFICIAL SECRETS ACT

In June last year, a 50-year-old public servant was arrested under the Official Secrets Act for allegedly sharing classified information about Phase 2 of Singapore's reopening from the "circuit breaker".

Police made the arrest after receiving a report that information about the resumption of activities was circulating among members of the public via WhatsApp messages.

In April last year, a 37-year-old public servant and her husband were arrested under the Act after allegedly circulating a draft of a joint media statement by the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Ministry of Education before it was officially released.

The draft statement detailed new learning arrangements and school closures to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Source: CNA/dv

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