Iris Koh denied bail for alleged vaccine fraud as probe reveals at least 20 patients involved

The prosecution said Iris Koh has been uncooperative since her arrest on Jan 21,  and this has delayed police investigations.  PHOTO: IRIS KOH/TWITTER

SINGAPORE - Iris Koh, the founder of anti-vaccine group Healing the Divide, was denied bail in the High Court on Monday (Jan 31), as the prosecution revealed that at least 20 patients were involved in an alleged vaccination fraud conspiracy that she has been charged with.

Koh, 46, was charged last Friday with conspiring with general practitioner Jipson Quah to make false representations to the Ministry of Health (MOH) that unvaccinated people were given the Sinopharm vaccine, when they were not.

On Monday, prosecutors, in arguing against Koh's bid to be granted bail, said at least 20 patients were involved in the alleged conspiracy, and that ongoing investigations have revealed offences relating to remote pre-event testing and false vaccine exemption letters.

The prosecution said Koh has been uncooperative since her arrest on Jan 21,  and this has delayed police investigations. 

Koh tore up a police statement on her fifth day in remand, tore up the charge that was read to her last Friday, in what the judge said was “blatant disrespect for the investigative and court processes”.

She also repeatedly complained of anxiety and panic attacks, but refused medical attention.

Justice Vincent Hoong agreed with the prosecutors that Koh's lack of cooperation with police investigators contributed to the need to remand her for investigations.

"I agree with the prosecution that it is precisely due to the applicant's efforts to frustrate and impede the investigations which have significantly contributed to the need for this further period of remand," he said.

Justice Hoong said: "The consequent delays to investigations are no doubt caused by her active and deliberate attempts to frustrate those very investigations."

He noted that her "belligerence, obstructive behaviour and lack of cooperation with investigations" during the initial period of remand, which started on Jan 23, was "appalling".

The judge said Koh's application for bail was "wholly devoid of merit".

He noted that she has been charged with a non-bailable offence, and the onus was on her to provide evidence to satisfy the court that bail should be granted.

Koh's lawyer, Mr Clarence Lun, had raised Koh's medical condition - hyperthyroidism - as a factor to support her application.

But Justice Hoong said this was an insufficient reason for bail to be granted.

He noted that Koh had been assessed to be fit for discharge from Singapore General Hospital (SGH) on Monday, and is scheduled for a biopsy procedure in two to three weeks.

"The latest medical memo... also indicates that the applicant is medically fit to be interviewed and is thus fit for investigations."

Mr Lun also said Koh’s husband had requested to visit her in the hospital during her remand, but the prosecution replied that “there is no basis for such visitation rights”. 

Agreeing with the prosecution, Justice Hoong denied Koh the visitation rights.

During the hearing that was held via videoconference, Koh, who was muted, could be seen raising her hand and appeared to be speaking but was ignored by the judge, who noted that she has legal representation.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Jiang Ke-yue told the court that the police have been accommodating to Koh and offered medical attention where necessary, but the evidence showed that she was not cooperating.

Giving a day-by-day account of her behaviour during her remand, the DPP said: "She has demonstrated a pattern of behaviour that shows her determination not to cooperate."

On Day 1, Koh complained of anxiety and panic attacks but refused to be admitted to the Institute of Mental Health.

On Day 4, she spent two hours making a police report against the investigation officer.

On Day 5, she refused medical attention despite complaining of discomfort, and also tore up the statement taken from her.

On Day 6, she was warded for observation at SGH.

On Day 7, she refused to be discharged despite being assessed fit to do so.

The DPP said that when the charge was read to Koh at SGH last Friday, she shouted her refusal to accept it, hurled a vulgarity at the investigation officer and tore up the charge.

"The appropriate adult was so afraid, she did not want to sign on the charge," added the DPP.

An appropriate adult is a trained volunteer who provides assistance to persons with mental health issues who have to undergo interviews with investigation officers.

The DPP noted that the other two accused persons charged in relation to the conspiracy - Quah and his assistant Thomas Chua Cheng Soon, 40 - have been cooperative and been granted bail.

"As we speak... arrangements are being made for their release," he said.

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