MFA director-general gets jail for lying to ministry about use of diplomatic bags

MFA director-general gets jail for lying to ministry about use of diplomatic bags

A director-general at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ( MFA ) lied to the ministry about using diplomatic bags to transport expensive watches for a friend, and he was sentenced to a week in prison on Monday ( May 20 ).

Gilbert Oh Hin Kwan, 45, admitted guilt next month to a 2023 charge of giving false data to a common slave.

Two additional charges were considered in punishment. These were used to aid in MFA’s bribery of the luxury watches and Panadol offer being sent via the political bag service.

Soon after the statement was handed out, defense attorney Mr. Shashi Nathan of Withers KhattarWong appealed for his customer.

The trial had sought a great of S$ 6, 000 to S$ 9, 000, while the army had asked for a great of less than S$ 5, 000.

However, District Judge Sharmila Sripathy-Shanaz determined that Oh’s steps had exceeded the legal limit for incarceration.

While she accepted that” no real damage has resulted” from Oh’s fake speech, she said the prosecutor’s investigation did not end there as it had to consider the potential to cause harm.

If there were no recourse, the prosecutor claimed that this had the “potential to undermine trust in Singapore’s international associations and embarrass the MFA”

The judge emphasized that political bags should only be able to hold political documents or items for official usage and cannot be opened or detained in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Political bags are a guarded means of communication between a country’s international missions and consulates, she noted.

Oh resisted using the diplomatic bag service because it was” not just a gross violation of the diplomatic bag service, but it was impermissible” to use it to transport expensive watches without revealing the identity of the package’s true owner and recipient.

Oh recently admitted to providing false information to the MFA’s assistant secretary for management regarding his demand to a partner to take a package containing expensive watches through the political bag service in January 2023.

After agreeing to assist a friend who is a Chinese federal in bringing her pieces from China to Singapore, he did it. Oh requested assistance from a partner at the Singaporean Embassy in Beijing on January 12, 2023, to help transport the package through the political bag.

He lied to his MFA partner to claim that his friend’s relatives, who he claimed was a Taiwanese minister, wanted a package delivered to him in Singapore.

Oh’s companion was not really a diplomat. He claimed that she was because he believed that this would make his coworker more likely to accept his plea.

A sealed package of 21 comfort pieces, a ring and about seven children’s books was sent to Oh’s friend’s address in Beijing.

Due to the political case services being suspended at the time, Oh’s partner ended up carrying the item on a journey from China to Singapore on January 17, 2023.

Immigration and Checkpoints Authority ( ICA ) agents at Changi Airport screened the luggage, and the watch-containing package was opened.

The subject was referred to the officers, and MFA was informed. The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau ( CPIB ) also started investigations.

The then-Deputy Secretary for Management of MFA instructed Oh to provide a written accounts of the circumstances surrounding the entry of the package into Singapore on January 19.

Oh was concerned that punitive action against him might have an affect on his professional development. Because he thought the government was more liberal than if he had the facts, he made the decision to show MFA that his papa owned the watches.

He repeatedly stated this fake account to MFA in an internet on January 19, 2023, and it was also repeated in a statement to CPIB on that date.

When Oh later admitted later that day to CPIB that it was a companion and not his parents who had requested the transportation of the luxury watches, the deception emerged.

Judge Sripathy-Shanaz rejected the claim that Oh’s lie merely concealed the package’s” true ownership” by the prosecution and the defense. Rather, it sought to put the event in” a vastly different lighting”.

She claimed Oh lied about the incident’s investigation into the possibility that the deputy minister of MFA did not conduct further inquiries.

His deception involved “misleadingly reinterpreting the antecedent act as an innocent occasion of helping his father transport individual items,” according to the judge, who claimed that the judge was trying to “prevent the hassle of too many explanations” and that he “wanted to prevent” scrutiny from the authorities.

She also emphasized the crucial role of internal investigations by public institutions, which, according to her, ensured accountability and transparency in the public service and were essential to upholding public trust and confidence.

A high-ranking public servant like Mr. Oh seeks to subvert the internal investigations of the public institution he serves, which is all the more obvious, real, and significant. Such a breach requires a strong response”.

The judge also found it “particularly repulsive” that Oh “actively bolstered the deception” by disclosing the lie he intended to tell to his father. Should there be a need, Oh’s intention must have been for his father to support his lie, she said.

Oh remains out on bail of S$ 15, 000. Prior to his previous hearing, the court had the opportunity to hear his resignation, but his case was pending.

Giving false information to a public servant could result in both a fine or two-year prison sentences.