AT THE COURTS

7 in group of 15 fined over CNY party in office unit

A group of 15 people gathered in an office unit near Marymount Road for a Chinese New Year celebration on Feb 25 this year, at a time when group gatherings were limited to eight people as part of Covid-19 measures.

They partied for more than four hours, drinking alcohol, singing karaoke and playing games, until a security officer reported the incident to the police.

Some members of the group were dealt with in the State Courts yesterday, with party organiser Ong Hui Siong, a 39-year-old Singaporean, fined $12,000 for illegally selling alcohol and providing public entertainment, and flouting Covid-19 laws.

Singaporean Joseph Lim Si Swee, 33, and Malaysian Lim Weitzien, 27, were fined $6,000 each for selling liquor and providing public entertainment without a licence.

Three Singaporeans, Low Xiang Hua, 31; Chua Li Jin, 32; and Ethan Tan, 31, as well as Chinese national Li Jia, 26, were fined $3,000 each for flouting Covid-19 regulations.

Also charged were Singaporeans Tey Zhi Yuan, 30, and Harold Tan Wei Jie, 35, as well as Chinese nationals Xiao Jing, 29; He Liuqiong, 30; Lin Xiaofeng, 34; Sun Minqian, 33; Shao Ruirui, 37; and Chen Yuanyuan, 28. Court papers said they are being dealt with separately.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Emily Koh and Tessa Tan told the court that Ong had leased the office unit for 12 months from October last year for his firm, Astrotech Industries. As his business was hit by the pandemic, he accepted offers to operate the office as a place for his friends to gather. They paid him for providing the venue as well as alcohol and entertainment.

"The gatherings... became more frequent and Hui Siong started receiving other guests unknown to him," said the prosecution.

When the police arrived at 2am on Feb 25, they found 15 people, many of whom occupied a long sofa, singing and playing games.

Alcoholic beverages, cups and dice were lined up on a table. Singing was facilitated by a karaoke machine, an overhead projector and speakers blasting loud music.

None of them wore a mask.

Ong was helped by Lim Weitzien and Joseph Lim, who have experience in the nightlife scene. DPP Koh said Ong received around $1,000 a month from his guests, and paid his two friends $50 to $200 a night for serving the guests.

Urging the judge to fine the guests $3,000 each and Ong $12,000 as a deterrent, DPP Koh said: "The group had met for a frivolous and completely unnecessary purpose... in blatant disregard of the social distancing measures that the rest of society has taken pains to comply with."

Those who flout Covid-19 regulations can be jailed for up to six months and fined up to $10,000.

Those who illegally provide public entertainment and liquor can be fined up to $20,000 for each offence.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2021, with the headline '7 in group of 15 fined over CNY party in office unit'. Subscribe