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Man charged with sending false message to NTU researcher that he had COVID-19

Man charged with sending false message to NTU researcher that he had COVID-19

File photo of the State Courts in Singapore. (Photo: Calvin Oh)

SINGAPORE: A man was charged on Monday (May 17) with knowingly transmitting a false message to a researcher from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) that he could not attend a "session" as he had COVID-19 and was quarantined in hospital.

Paul Chan Kin Nang, 40, was given one charge of transmitting a false message under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act to NTU researcher Lau Zen Juen.

The charge sheet states that Chan sent an email to Ms Lau at 12.47pm on Sep 6, 2020, stating: "Hi, I am unable to attend the session tomorrow as I am tested positive for Covid19 and is now quarantine in hospital."

Chan allegedly knew this to be false, as he had not tested positive for COVID-19, the document continued.

Court documents at the early charging stage did not elaborate on what "session" Chan was supposed to attend, or how the allegations came to light.

According to online research websites, the researcher he allegedly lied to is studying the cognitive neuroscience of deception. 

The email address that he allegedly sent the false message to was listed in a Facebook post aimed at NTU Psychology Majors in July 2020, calling for volunteers to participate in a decision-making study using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). 

A spokesperson for NTU told CNA after the hearing that Chan is a member of the public who is a volunteer participant in a social science study conducted at NTU. 

"After he informed the researchers that he could not attend a research session as he had allegedly tested positive for COVID-19, the university promptly checked with the authorities to verify whether he is a confirmed COVID-19 case, due to the need for contact tracing," he said.

"When his claim was found to be false, a police report was made. He is no longer participating in the study. As the case is before the courts, we have no other comments at this time."

The offence Chan was charged with is relatively new - it was added to the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act in January last year.

The last reported case on such an offence was for Kenneth Lai Yong Hui, a taxi driver who was jailed four months in May 2020 for posting a fake message on Facebook about supposed food outlet closures and urging panic buying.

If convicted of the offence, Chan can be jailed up to three years, fined up to S$10,000, or both.

Source: CNA/ll(ta)

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