Phones used by two lawyers to allegedly tip off contraband cigarettes gang to be inspected

Wee Hong Shern (left) and Ong Peng Boon are charged with trying to obstruct the course of justice. ST PHOTOS: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Counsels for two lawyers charged with trying to obstruct the course of justice have asked to inspect mobile phones allegedly used to alert a contraband cigarettes syndicate of impending action by the authorities.

The hearing for Wee Hong Shern, who is listed as a director at Ong & Co law firm, and Ong Peng Boon, who is an equity partner at the same firm, was to have started on Wednesday (June 8).

But lawyers for both men told District Judge Marvin Bay they needed to inspect the devices said to have been used to send WhatsApp messages to alert the syndicate to dispose of evidence relating to its activities.

Ong's lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam said he needed to inspect three phones linked to the case. The devices are currently with the authorities.

He also told the judge that he would require certain messages to be extracted from the phones.

Wee's counsel Ramesh Tiwary also indicated that he wanted to physically examine the devices.

In response, Deputy Public Prosecutor Timotheus Koh said the inspections will take place on Thursday.

They relate to a message Wee, 35, is said to have sent to Ong, who is 65.

The prosecution's case is that Wee had sent out the following message: "I talked to Ah Boon to update. Basically: Buffalo is busted.

"Factory is safe for now but he warns it's only a matter of time before they find out where it is as they have the SD cars of Ah Boon's vehicle.

"They can trace buffalo and find factory eventually. So he said to clear everything from factory ASAP. Evidence has come out that ST has been paid by China man.

"His Zello phone was seized and he didn't have time do delete convos. Bail opened at 55K."

Court documents did not explain the nature of the message, details about the syndicate, the identity of "Ah Boon" and the investigation.

After the exchange, Ong is said to have forwarded Wee's message to one Tan Hock Ann, whose details were not revealed in court documents.

Wee, Ong and a third man, Mr Selva Kumar Subramaniam, were charged in court in September 2020 over their alleged involvement in the case.

Mr Selva Kumar, then 42, had been accused of providing information to Wee on May 10, 2019 that involved a criminal investigation.

Wee was then acting as his defence lawyer.

In November last year, Mr Selva Kumar had his charge withdrawn following a pre-trial conference. He was later acquitted by District Judge Ng Cheng Thiam.

In a statement last November, the Attorney-General's Chambers said: "After assessing the facts and circumstances of the case, a stern warning was administered to Mr Selva Kumar and the prosecution applied for a discharge amounting to an acquittal for the charge, which was granted by the court."

This means he cannot be charged again with the same offence.

The trial will resume on Thursday afternoon.

Offenders convicted of intentionally obstructing the course of justice can be jailed for up to seven years and fined.

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