Man jailed for forging vaccination memo with phone app to dine in

·Senior Reporter
·5 min read
Singapore's State Courts seen on 21 April 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
Singapore's State Courts seen on 21 April 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — A Chinese national who was vaccinated in his home country decided to forge a doctor's memorandum issued in Singapore to a colleague in order to dine at a restaurant.

Zhang Shaopeng, 30, was in Singapore in August while awaiting entry into the United States for work.

He was jailed for three weeks on Wednesday (29 September) after he pleaded guilty to one count of forgery.

Zhang was subjected to a polymerase chain reaction test after arriving in Singapore on 27 August, and sent to Oakwood Premier ATMD Singapore hotel and serviced apartment at Shenton Way for quarantine. He tested negative for COVID-19.

He was supposed to attend a solar power exhibition on 21 September in the US with two other colleagues, Cheng Lin and Chen Shuwei. However, entry into the US for foreign nationals who had been in China during the 14-day period before their arrival had been mostly suspended, so the trio decided to travel to Singapore first.

Chen and Cheng, who arrived earlier than Zhang, also tested negative for the disease.

On 25 August, Zhang’s two colleagues went to the Raffles Medical Group clinic to validate their overseas COVID-19 vaccination certificates. They were both seen by Dr Lim Ru Hui and underwent COVID-19 serology tests.

Both received their results and a doctor’s memorandum certifying that they were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with positive COVID-19 serology. Zhang did not visit this doctor.

On 28 August, Zhang met his colleagues to smoke and chat. The two colleagues told Zhang that he had to produce a written document from a designated clinic certifying that he was vaccinated if he wanted to dine in at a restaurant in Singapore.

They told him that they had obtained a doctor’s memorandum to the effect and suggested that Zhang do so. Cheng showed Zhang a photograph of the memorandum on his mobile phone.

On 29 August, Zhang asked Cheng to send him the photos of the memo. Zhang then used the Snapseed photo-editing application to remove Cheng’s name from the photograph and inserted his own name.

Zhang later moved to Orchard Point Serviced Apartments on 1 September with the help of the two colleagues. To show his appreciation for the pair, Zhang said he would buy them a meal and brought them to Orchard Central shopping mall where they went to Tanuki Raw bar.

The restaurant’s supervisor and a service crew member received the trio at the entrance. They asked for the trio’s vaccination status and Zhang told her that all of them had been vaccinated in China with the Sinovac vaccine. Zhang showed a photograph of his vaccination certificate issued by the vaccination clinic of the Tonglu County Women and Children’s Healthcare Hospital.

However, the certificate was in Mandarin, so the supervisor asked the trio for a document in English that was recognised by the Singapore government.

Chen showed her doctor’s memorandum from Raffles Medical and the vaccination sticker on her passport issued by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority. Cheng showed his memo using his handphone. 

When the supervisor insisted that Zhang present proof that he was fully vaccinated, Zhang showed her the forged electronic record on his handphone.

He said he did not have his passport with him. The supervisor then took photographs of the documents and allowed the group into the restaurant, where they ordered food.

A while later, the supervisor sent the photographs she took to the management of the restaurant, which decided to verify the authenticity of the documents.

The manager of the restaurant eventually noticed that the NRIC number in the memorandum issued by Cheng’s doctor and the forged electronic record were exactly the same.

Suspecting forgery, the management instructed the supervisor to ask the group to leave.

Minutes later, the supervisor asked the group to leave and asked why the NRIC number for the memorandum issued by Cheng’s doctor and Zhang's record were the same. Zhang denied knowledge of the matter.

The food ordered was packed for takeaway. While a staff was settling the bill, Zhang told her that his agent in China had prepared everything, including the hotel and certificate for them.

A few hours later, the manager of the restaurant lodged a police report against the group.

Zhang later deleted all copies of the forged memorandum, but a copy of the legitimate memorandum from Cheng’s doctor was found on his iCloud account. Raffles Medical confirmed on 2 September that Zhang did not visit the clinic.

Zhang's lawyers, Cory Wong and Josephus Tan, sought a high fine or less than two weeks' jail for their client. Wong said that since Zhang was unable to find a Singapore bailor, he was remanded from 15 September and was at risk of being remanded longer than his actual jail term.

Zhang had not known the gravity of his offence and only came to realise his folly later, his lawyers said in mitigation.

"It was precisely on the spur of the moment that Mr Zhang had simply amateurishly used a basic handphone application to commit the offence on the fly within minutes as opposed to scrupulous digital editing on a laptop or desktop. His modus operandi was unsophisticated to say the least," Wong said. 

The lawyers added that Zhang had already been vaccinated in China, on 19 January and 4 February. They attached a notarial certificate with an English translation from the Hangzhou National Notary Public Office of China as evidence. 

Forgery carries a jail term of up to four years, or a fine, or both.

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