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Singapore

South Korean man fined for lying in declaration, serving COVID-19 stay-home notice with family around

South Korean man fined for lying in declaration, serving COVID-19 stay-home notice with family around

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

SINGAPORE: After applying to serve his stay-home notice at his own residence instead of at a dedicated facility, a South Korean man stayed with his wife and two children and allowed movers into the condominium unit.

When officers came to check on him, they were surprised to see his entire family in the living room with him while house movers walked about transporting furniture into the home.

Ko Kyung Ho, 46, was fined S$7,000 on Tuesday (Jun 29) for an offence under the Infectious Diseases Act. He pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly providing false information that he would serve his stay-home notice alone or with household members with the same travel history as himself.

A second charge of exposing nine house movers to the risk of infection was taken into consideration.

The court heard that Ko was working in South Korea from August 2020 and entered Singapore several times a year to visit his family as his two children study here.

In late October 2020, he and his wife decided to hire movers to transport their items to their new home in Charleston Condominium in the Tanglin area.

On Nov 25, 2020, Ko returned to Singapore, arriving at Changi Airport Terminal 3. He was served by an Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officer, who was tasked with verifying his information before serving him with a stay-home notice.

As Ko had opted to serve his stay-home notice at his new declared residence, he was briefed on the terms and conditions for opt-out travellers. Among the conditions were that he had to occupy his place of residence alone, or only with household members who had the same travel history as him and who were also serving stay-home notice.

He was also required to acknowledge that he would ensure no other person would stay with him until the notice period had ended. The warning on prosecution was also included in the form.

Despite knowing that his family members would be staying with him, Ko signed the document. He was not given any approval to allow his family nor any movers to enter or stay at the declared place of residence.

HIS FAMILY MEMBERS RECEIVED HIM AT THE AIRPORT

Ko's wife and son welcomed him at the airport and they took separate transport home. His son stayed overnight with him, in breach of the condition in the declaration form.

The next day, movers went to the condo to transport the Ko family's belongings in. At 2.30pm, two officers from SATS - the airport services firm - who were assigned to carry out house visits on travellers serving their stay-home notice arrived at the condo.

They were surprised to see Ko with his wife and two children in the living room, while house movers were transferring furniture, household items and boxes in.

When the officers asked Ko if he was staying alone, he said he was staying there with his wife and children. The officers took down their names and ordered the movers to cease their work.

Four ICA officers arrived within the hour and saw Ko and his family in the unit along with nine movers. The movers were there for more than two hours. They did not know that Ko was serving stay-home notice, and they would not have accepted the assignment if they did, the prosecutor said.

Ko was escorted to a hotel to serve out the rest of his stay-home notice, and later charged in court.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Joshua Lim called for the maximum S$10,000 fine, saying that Ko had planned the move in late October, about a month before he entered Singapore.

He had two chances to come clean, said Mr Lim: First in the online form and second when he signed the physical form at the checkpoint.

He also allowed movers to enter his home, said Mr Lim.

HE PREVIOUSLY SERVED SHN WITH HIS FAMILY: DEFENCE

Defence lawyer Adrian Wee said a fine of S$7,000 would be appropriate. He said Ko had served a stay-home notice before, and it was with his family members at his family home. 

"That forms the basis of the accused person's desire or expectation to serve his SHN with his family," said Mr Wee.

"But as it turned out - and this he fully accepts - the rules had changed by the time he returned to Singapore in November," said the lawyer.

He said that Ko took steps to isolate himself behind the sliding doors of his balcony when there were other people in his home, but acknowledged this does not fulfil requirements.

It was not a case where he went out to engage with anyone, and he did not have COVID-19 nor did he transmit it to anyone, said Mr Wee. He said his client was very sorry and regrets the offence.

The judge agreed with the defence on the quantum of the fine.

Ko could have been jailed up to six months, fined up to S$10,000, or both for providing false information under the Infectious Diseases Act.

Source: CNA/ll(ac)

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