SINGAPORE: Gilbert Oh Hin Kwan, a director-general at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), faced legal charges on Thursday (23 Nov) concerning the use of diplomatic bags to send items not compliant with regulations.
The 44-year-old is accused of two counts of cheating and one count of providing false information to a public servant.
In December of the previous year, Oh allegedly utilized the diplomatic bag service to send boxes of Panadol – containing paracetamol – from Singapore to Beijing.
Allegedly, he concealed from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) that the package was intended for a personal acquaintance instead of his MFA colleague, Dion Loke Cheng Wang, stationed in Beijing.
According to MFA’s website, Mr Loke is the First Secretary (Political) at Singapore’s Embassy in Beijing.
The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) stated that MFA was influenced to accept the package for diplomatic bag service based on this misrepresented information, a course of action they would not have taken had they been aware of the truth.
As per the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, diplomatic bags serve the purpose of transporting official documents or items.
The convention strictly prohibits the opening or detention of diplomatic bags, mandating that these bags must visibly display external marks confirming their diplomatic character.
In December 2022, there was a notable surge in demand for flu and cough medicine in China.
This increase coincided with the escalating COVID-19 cases in China and reports of shortages in essential medications. Chinese nationals in Singapore queued up to send flu medicine back to their relatives in China.
Consequently, this contributed to an escalated local demand for over-the-counter medicine to alleviate symptoms of fever, cough, and cold within Singapore.
Dispatch of luxury watches via diplomatic bag service
Oh faces allegations of allegedly encouraging Mr Loke on 12 Jan to dispatch a package containing luxury watches from China to Singapore via the diplomatic bag service.
It is claimed that Oh failed to disclose that the package belonged to and was intended for someone else, as stated by CPIB.
On 19 January, he reportedly provided misleading information to MFA Deputy Secretary Ong Eng Chuan regarding the package of luxury watches brought into Singapore by Mr Loke on 17 Jan.
Oh asserted that the watches belonged to his father.
During the court hearing on Thursday, Mr Oh’s legal counsel stated the necessity to gather additional documents, citing the sensitivity of the matter.
He petitioned for his client’s presence to be waived for forthcoming hearings, seeking representation solely by his lawyer, a request that was approved.
If found guilty of cheating, he could face imprisonment for up to three years, a fine, or both.
Additionally, a conviction for lying to a public servant may result in a potential sentence of up to two years imprisonment, a fine, or both.
Oh’s case will be heard again on 21 December.
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