Week's jail for ex-Certis officer who breached Official Secrets Act by sharing PMD enforcement plan

Syarifah Nur Nabilah Syed Omar received information of an operation and shared a screenshot of it. PHOTO: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS

SINGAPORE - She used to nab errant personal mobility device (PMD) users as an enforcement officer, but when Syarifah Nur Nabilah Syed Omar became a food delivery rider, she exchanged information with a fellow rider so that he could avoid areas where officers would be deployed.

Still part of a chat group from her enforcement days, Syarifah received information on an operation and she forwarded a screenshot of it to Afendi Mohamed Rashid.

The 24-year-old was sentenced to one week's jail on Thursday (June 30) after she pleaded guilty to a charge of wrongful communication under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) .

Afendi, 36, who had also pleaded guilty to the same charge after forwarding the screenshot to others, received a similar sentence.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Seah Ee Wei told the court on Thursday (June 30) that Syarifah had been an auxiliary police officer with Certis from December 2020 to May 20 last year, and was engaged as a Land Transport Authority (LTA) active mobility enforcement officer, a job subcontracted to Certis by the statutory board.

Such officers would patrol pedestrian walkways in teams to detect errant PMD users who used modified devices, flouted the speed limit or compromised road safety.

LTA staff would plan the areas where each team would patrol and the team leaders would come up with a deployment plan that included details like which officers were to be deployed to which streets and park connectors and the times they would be on patrol.

This changed from day to day and the information was not made public.

While with Cisco, Syarifah's team leader Muhammad Khairee Salehan would send the deployment plan to a WhatsApp group chat that comprised all the officers in the team.

After resigning from her job with Certis, Syarifah did not leave the group chat and she was not removed from it despite no longer being authorised to receive the plans.

From May 21 to 31 last year, nine daily deployment plans were sent to the group chat and received by Syarifah in contravention of the OSA.

On June 1 last year, at around 10.30am, Mr Khairee sent the day's deployment plan to the group chat and Syarifah took a screenshot of it and forwarded it to Afendi at about 10.45am via Facebook Messenger.

Said DPP Seah: "(Syarifah) did so because Afendi and her would pass information to one another about such enforcement efforts so that they would know which places to avoid the active mobility enforcement officers, so that they would not receive tickets or summonses in relation to them riding the PMDs.

"She thus wanted to warn Afendi."

Despite knowing that the screenshot contained confidential information, Afendi forwarded it to a public WhatsApp chat group titled One Heart A_B_S with 211 members, with a message that translated to, "don't say I nvr protect ah. Today GM deployment".

DPP Seah said Afendi intended to give members of the group a heads up on the deployment so they could avoid detection.

Members of the group then forwarded the information of the deployment of the enforcement officers, colloquially known as "GM", or "Green Men" because of the green vests they wore, to at least three other WhatsApp chat groups for PMD riders.

Syarifah deleted the screenshot and her message to Afendi some time between June 1 and 2 last year, and later admitted that she did so because she was afraid that the police would find them.

Some time on or after June 1 last year, Afendi deleted his chat logs with Syarifah and One_Heart_ABS, and the screenshot she shared with him.

That day, an LTA officer lodged a police report stating that one of his officers had come across LTA's active mobility daily deployment roster plan leaked on an e-scooter WhatsApp chat.

On June 2 last year, a police officer called Afendi but he refused to attend an interview and subsequently blocked the officer's number when the officer sent him a message via WhatsApp.

Another police officer called Afendi on the same day but Afendi hung up when he was asked to go to the police station for an interview.

Afendi was eventually arrested in December last year.

In court on Thursday, DPP Seah asked for one to two weeks' jail for each offender.

Syarifah was represented by Mr Azri Imran Tan from IRB Law while Afendi did not have a lawyer.

Mr Tan argued that his client should receive a lower sentence than Afendi.

The lawyer said in his written mitigation: "(As) GrabFood delivery riders, any kind of fines or LTA enforcement action would significantly affect their earnings and/or ability to work in food delivery, and she did so because she wanted to help (Afendi) 'protect his ricebowl'.

"She shared the information (with Afendi) only so he could avoid enforcement officers. She completely regrets her actions, and acknowledges she should have left the LTA group chat, even if she had not been removed."

Afendi pleaded for leniency, saying that his wife suffered from anxiety attacks and that he was the only one in his family who had a job.

Those found guilty of wrongful communication of information under the OSA can be jailed for up to two years and be fined up to $2,000.

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