SINGAPORE - A sales engineer who was part of an online group that distributed voyeuristic videos taken with hidden cameras placed in public toilets, changing rooms and fast-food outlets has become the first to be convicted.
Joel Chew Weichen, 27, pleaded guilty on Thursday (Sept 21) to a charge of having close to 300 obscene films for distribution as details of the group's modus operandi emerged in court.
Chew was among five men arrested in November last year following reports that compromising photos and videos of unsuspecting female victims were being circulated online.
Chew was a member of Sammyboy Forum, and subsequently became a member of a Google group known as SG Horizon Club and also LittleSG.
Sammyboy Forum is a predominantly sex-themed online forum which contains hundreds of threads where obscene material are shared. These include pornographic films and films of a voyeuristic nature like upskirt videos.
SG Horizon was set up late last year by Ali V.P. Mohamed for members to share sexually-themed films.To join Horizon, applicants had to be Singaporeans and send a request to Ali, 46, for his approval.
As the moderator of Horizon, Ali also publicised Horizon on Sammyboy Forum, and encouraged Sammyboy Forum members to join Horizon.
He and four others - fund accountant Shaun Lee, 28, digital marketing specialist Clarence Tang Jia Ming, 25, and customer service officer Ong Yi Jie alias Kenneth, 27 - are facing between one and 253 charges. Their cases are pending.
Through the three platforms, Chew engaged in downloading and sharing of videos with other members.
When police raided his home on Nov 25, they found four hard disk drives a total of 775 films, 280 of which were obscene.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Tang Shangjun said the stated purpose of Horizon, and also of LittleSG, was to facilitate the distribution of obscene or sexually-themed films of Singaporeans and which were filmed in Singapore.
"Many of these films were filmed with hidden cameras that were placed in offices, bathrooms, and changing rooms of popular fashion outlets like Cotton On, and bathroom showers of private homes.
"These films captured unsuspecting women and girls, including schoolgirls in uniform, in various states of undress, relieving themselves in the toilet and/or taking showers.
Seeking at least six months' jail to be imposed, DPP Tang said that there was actual passingof films, most of which captured the victims' faces and private parts; the offence was planned and premeditated; the repeated circulation would cause unimaginable shame to the victims; and Chew's offending behaviour was difficult to detect.
He said significant public disquiet had been caused as a result of the filming and circulation of these films.
"The toilets and changing rooms are places where users expect utmost privacy," he said.
District Judge Prem Raj will sentence Chew on Oct 5.
Chew could be fined not less than $2,000 per film, up to a maximum of $80,000, or jailed for up to two years or both.