Fifth man admits to unlawfully sharing photos of fatal SAF accident

Thng Yu Xuan pleaded guilty in a district court to an offence under the Official Secrets Act. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The fifth and final man linked to a case in which photographs of a fatal training accident involving a Bionix infantry fighting vehicle and a Land Rover were unlawfully disseminated has admitted to the offence.

Thng Yu Xuan, 21, pleaded guilty on Monday (Feb 24) in a district court to an offence under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

Four other men - Muhammad Arif Azman, 22; Muhammad Zaki Haji Mokhtar, 24; as well as Brandon Tan Jien Jet and Mohamad Haikal Mohd Zainal Abiddin, both 21 - had admitted to similar charges and were dealt with earlier.

They were each fined between $1,500 and $3,000.

All five men, who were attached to Jurong Fire Station, have since completed their national service with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Corporal First Class Liu Kai, 22, was killed in the accident on Nov 3, 2018.

The transport operator from SAF's Transport Hub West died after the Bionix mounted the Land Rover he was driving at the Murai Urban Training Facility.

Thng, who was holding the rank of Sergeant 1, was part of the team sent to the accident scene at around 10.20am, the court heard. The team included Arif and Haikal.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Zhou Yihong said: "Prior to assisting his teammates in the extrication, Arif used his personal mobile phone to take two photographs of the scene, both of which captured the Bionix and the Land Rover crushed beneath it.

"Haikal similarly used his personal mobile phone and took five photographs of the scene... None of the five photographs show the deceased."

Thng, however, did not snap any photographs. The SCDF officers returned to Jurong Fire Station at around 2pm that day.

Arif and Haikal then sent the photographs to a WhatsApp chat group made up of 24 present and former SCDF personnel attached to the fire station. Thng, Zaki and Tan were part of the group.

DPP Zhou said that after receiving the pictures, Thng forwarded four of them to another chat group as he "wanted to show them what had happened and to gossip".

At about 4pm the same day, the commander of Jurong Fire Station, Captain Dinesh K. Verlachamy, 36, received information from an SCDF public affairs officer that a photograph of the accident site was circulating on WhatsApp.

Captain Dinesh then carried out interviews to find out how the picture was leaked.

DPP Zhou told District Judge Christopher Goh: "It was during the briefing and interviews that Arif and Haikal were identified as the individuals who had taken and circulated the accident site photographs.

"It was also discovered that Brandon, Zaki and Yu Xuan had further disseminated the photographs... to their friends and family."

Thng was offered bail of $2,000 on Monday and will be sentenced on March 3.

Anyone convicted of an offence of wrongful communication of official information is liable to a fine of up to $2,000 and two years in jail.

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