Writer of Nikkei piece on KTV Covid-19 cluster fined $42k over offences involving obscene images

Wong Ming Jun leaving the State Courts on April 8, 2022. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - The writer of an opinion piece about the KTV Covid-19 cluster here, published last July on the Nikkei Asia website, was fined $42,000 on Friday (April 8) over unrelated offences linked to obscene films and pictures.

Wong Ming Jun, 28, was a part of a Telegram group chat where members shared lewd images. The Singaporean was the last person linked to it to be dealt with in court.

Three others - Lincoln Anthony Fernandez, 31, Tan Yeow Chong, 40, and Yee Wing Kay, 47 - were dealt with earlier.

Wong, a container prime mover driver, pleaded guilty on March 31 to two charges under the Films Act and one of being in possession of the obscene pictures.

The court heard that he became a member of the group chat around November 2018.

On Oct 24, 2019, a woman made a police report, stating that its members "shared lewd and indecent photos of girls" and that it had more than 24,000 members at the time.

Police arrested Wong on Nov 6 that year and seized his laptop and mobile phone.

In an earlier proceeding, Deputy Public Prosecutor Bryont Chin told the court that the authorities later found that Wong had more than 2,000 obscene films on the devices. He also had more than 1,400 obscene pictures on his mobile phone.

Wong had downloaded the films from the Internet.

The DPP said: "Of the... obscene static pictures, some were downloaded by (Wong) from the Internet and others were static pictures of himself, his friends, and/or his partners taken by (Wong)."

Wong had kept the films and pictures for his personal consumption and did not transmit them.

As for his opinion piece published last year, The Straits Times reported that it was titled The Institutional Failures Behind Singapore's Latest Covid Outbreak.

The piece had stated that the KTV cluster "exposed the pernicious role of organised vice enterprises in Singapore".

It also asked why KTVs were allowed to reopen "without explanation" in 2020, adding that there was an "evident border policy loophole" with foreign sex workers being allowed to enter the country by falsely claiming familial ties.

The KTV Covid-19 cluster was first discovered on July 12 last year and sparked investigations into matters including cases involving foreign social hostesses.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) announced four days later that operations at all nightlife establishments that had pivoted to become food and beverage outlets would be suspended until July 30.

The closure affected more than 400 such businesses.

MOH officially closed the cluster of 253 cases on Sept 8 last year.

Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam, who was aware of Wong's case that was linked to the Telegram group, posted on Facebook, saying: "We are left to wonder if the criminal investigation against him was the reason for his diatribe based on falsehoods; and the extent to which he was doing a political hack job (his political affiliation is public). Surprising also that Nikkei will publish such an article."

Nikkei Asia is a news platform with bureaus across the continent.

Mr Shanmugam, who is also Minister for Law, had also said that the piece was "little more than a work of fiction".

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