SINGAPORE — Jipson Quah, a doctor said to have falsely stated that individuals have been given COVID-19 vaccines, was remanded for one more week on Tuesday (25 January) after his lawyer unsuccessfully argued for him to be released on bail with conditions.
Quah, 33, a medical practitioner at Wan Medical Clinic, has been in remand for five days.
He was originally handed last Friday a charge of cheating the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a conspiracy with two other individuals, Thomas Chua Cheng Soon and Mehrajunnisha. Cheating is a bailable offence carrying a maximum jail term of three years but Quah now faces an amended and more serious charge.
The new charge, which was handed to him on Tuesday, states that he dishonestly made a false representation to the MOH on 14 January 2022 in a conspiracy with Chua, who is Quah's assistant, and Mehrajunnisha. The alleged false representation was that Mehrajunnisha had been vaccinated with the Sinopharm vaccine when she was not, in order for her to obtain a certificate of vaccination against COVID-19.
The offence is not bailable and if convicted, Quah would face a maximum jail term of 20 years, or fined, or both.
Quah's lawyer, Shashi Nathan, said that he was informed by the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) a day earlier that the charge would be amended, after he had reached out to the prosecution about the original charge being a bailable offence.
On Tuesday, before District Judge Terence Tay, the prosecution, represented by Deputy Public Prosecutor Samuel Yap, applied for Quah to be remanded for one more week.
DPP Yap said that investigations required Quah's presence, including his access to medical records.
"Preliminary investigations suggest that there are other patients involved and there are voluminous records that need to be examined," said DPP Yap.
"There is also some time urgency... because there is public interest in ensuring investigations are carried out quickly. The outcome of this offending...is that there may be people (walking) around with vaccinated status but in fact have not received (their) vaccinations. And these people will be allowed to enjoy vaccinated-differentiated measures and therefore pose a risk to Singaporeans in this time," added the DPP.
Nathan objected to Quah being further remanded, stating that the court has many options, including imposing conditions with bail on Quah such as daily reporting, or electronic tagging to secure his attendance.
The police had already taken records from Quah's clinics so there was no issue of him having the records destroyed or disseminated, according to Nathan.
There was no guarantee that even if Quah were to be remanded for a week, the prosecution would not ask for an extended remand, Nathan added.
"If there was any danger of him absconding...I have no quarrel with prosecution. But in this case he is a young intelligent man, he knows he has a lot of explaining to do. I would ask him to be admitted to bail, even if (it's a) higher amount. I would ask the court to impose conditions including e-tagging or daily reporting if necessary so that he has his liberty, and the police can continue investigations as quickly as possible."
Replying to Nathan's suggestion that AGC only amended the charge upon being contacted by Nathan, DPP Yap said it was the prosecution's prerogative to prefer the most appropriate charge, and that the charge had been amended after it reviewed the facts.
DJ Tay granted the prosecution's application for Quah to be remanded for one more week. He said that given the spread of the Omicron COVID variant, there was a need to quickly verify the vaccination status of individuals to allow vaccination-differentiated measures to apply amid the "risk of serious and more widespread health consequences".
Quah's case will return to court on 31 January.
MOH began investigations into the case after it received anonymous feedback in December 2021.
Wan Medical Clinic is currently under investigation for allegedly partnering Iris Koh, the founder of the group known as “Healing the Divide” to offer “remote” antigen rapid test (ART) pre-event testing (PET) for members of group.
Koh was charged on Sunday with an offence of criminal conspiracy to cheat. She is said to have referred members of Healing The Divide to Quah and suggesting that instead of a vaccine, something else is administered to them. Her case is pending before the courts.
Wan Medical Clinic is said to have allowed individuals to allegedly submit to the clinic pre-recorded videos and/or photos purporting to show that they had performed ART PET on themselves. The clinic then uploaded the negative ART results for these individuals.
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