SINGAPORE - General practitioner Jipson Quah, who was initially accused of engaging in a conspiracy to dupe the Ministry of Health (MOH) over fake Covid-19 vaccination information, has had his cheating charge amended to a more serious offence - dishonestly making a false representation to the ministry.
If convicted of the amended charge, Quah, who appeared in court via video link on Tuesday (Jan 25), can be jailed for up to 20 years and fined.
Those convicted of cheating can be jailed for up to three years and fined.
According to his amended charge, Quah, 33, allegedly worked with a woman identified as Mehrajunnisha and his clinic assistant, Thomas Chua Cheng Soon, 40, to commit the offence between last month and this month.
Quah is said to have falsely represented to MOH that Mehrajunnisha had purportedly received the Sinopharm vaccine when, in fact, she had not.
He allegedly committed the offence so that she could obtain a certificate of vaccination against Covid-19.
On Tuesday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Samuel Yap applied for Quah to be further remanded, stressing that the case involved "voluminous records that need to be examined".
Stressing that there is “some time urgency”, the prosecutor said: “There may be persons walking around with vaccinated statuses but who have not in fact received vaccination, and these people will be allowed to enjoy the vaccination-differentiated measures, and therefore pose a risk to Singaporeans in this time.”
Quah is represented by lawyers Shashi Nathan, Jeremy Pereira and Laura Yeo.
Mr Nathan asked the court to grant bail to his client.
He said: “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.
“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.”
District Judge Terence Tay allowed the prosecution’s application and Quah’s case has been adjourned to Jan 31.
Judge Tay said that with the rise of the Omicron variant and the various public interests, there remains a “risk of serious and more widespread health consequences” if the matter is not promptly addressed.
Quah, Chua and founder of anti-vaccine group Healing the Divide Iris Koh Shu Cii, 46, were earlier charged in court with one count of cheating each. All three alleged offenders are Singaporeans.
In a statement on Sunday (Jan 23), the police said that preliminary investigations revealed that the two men had allegedly worked together to submit false vaccination data.
Koh is believed to have referred clients to them.
MOH had earlier said that it will be issuing notices of suspension to the four clinics that Quah owns or is clinic manager of, as well as revoking their approvals to conduct rapid tests for Covid-19.
They are Wan Medical Clinic in Bedok, Mayfair Medical Clinic in Woodlands, Mayfair Medical Clinic (Chong Pang) in Yishun, and Ong Clinic & Surgery, also in Yishun.
Quah had also been working part-time as a laboratory director at the Diagnostics Development Hub's (DxD's) clinical diagnostics laboratory.
DxD, which is funded by the National Research Foundation and led by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, has since suspended Quah.
Checks with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority show that Quah is also listed as a director at the PPD Global Central Labs, a biomedical company in Singapore.
PPD, an American company with offices around the world, is owned by Thermo Fisher Scientific.
He has been placed on leave by Thermo Fisher Scientific, which told The Straits Times: "The allegations do not involve Dr Quah's role as a director of global central laboratories within Thermo Fisher's clinical research business... Dr Quah has been placed on leave while we review the allegations."
The cases involving Koh and Chua have been adjourned to Jan 28.