Singapore

MFA scholar doctors papers to import birds

He gets three weeks' jail for doctoring documents in bid to shorten quarantine period

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) scholarship holder loved his four pet birds so much that he decided to bring them home when he was completing his university studies in Japan.

In order to shorten the necessary quarantine period to bring the birds in, he forged two official e-mails from Singaporean and Japanese authorities.

For that, Jonathan Quek Zuo En, 28, was yesterday sentenced to three weeks' jail. He also left MFA and had to pay back $132,606 for the premature termination of his scholarship bond, reported The Straits Times.

Quek had e-mailed the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) which informed him in August 2014 that, among other things, the birds had to be quarantined for 21 days before export and be free from avian flu.

In his reply, Quek said the Japanese quarantine office did not offer a quarantine service for pet birds and asked if a veterinary health document would do, reported The Straits Times.

AVA's veterinarian Grace Sum Chi-En said in her Aug 27 e-mail that the 21-day pre-export isolation would still be required.

Quek was aware that Japan did not have any export requirements but would follow the requirements of the importing country.

On Sept 15 that year, he e-mailed the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) in Japan from home and attached Dr Sum's e-mail, which he doctored.

He changed the date of her e-mail and period of pre-export isolation to seven days in AVA facilities post-arrival. He also said the avian influenza test could be done in Singapore.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Eugene Sng said that contrary to what Quek had been told by Dr Sum, the changes he made to her e-mail gave the false impression that the 21-day pre-export isolation and avian flu test were not required for the birds to be exported to Singapore.

"The accused admitted during the course of investigations that he made the alterations 'out of convenience' and that he wanted to bring the birds back to Singapore 'without any hassle','' said the DPP.

A cockatiel, a green-cheeked conure, a barred parakeet and a Bourke's parakeet were subsequently exported to Singapore.

On Oct 4, Quek was advised to contact the Japanese authorities to issue another set of veterinary certificates as the documents he produced to collect his birds at Changi Animal and Plant Quarantine Station did not comply with AVA requirements.

CONTACT

Station manager Mercado Paulo Bien Lantican asked Quek for the name and e-mail address of his contact at MAFF so that AVA could write to them directly.

On Oct 8, Mr Mercado received an e-mail, purportedly belonging to MAFF quarantine officer Tatsuya Iwanaga, explaining the details of the paperwork.

DPP Sng said the e-mail was cooked up by Quek. "The accused did this by searching online for methods of sending 'spoof' e-mails."

Quek's offences came to light later that month when Mr Mercado wrote to the Japanese quarantine officer who said he did not send the e-mail.

Better job matching for ICT sector

Professionals in the infocommunications technology (ICT) sector and those wanting to join it can look forward to two new programmes launched yesterday.

The number of ICT-related job vacancies across various industries rose by 38 per cent from 2014 to reach 20,000 in 2015.

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said at a career event at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar: "The jobs are there, the jobseekers are there, but the two may keep missing each other."

Even if jobseekers know what jobs they want, they may not have the necessary skills, expertise and experience that employers want.

To provide better matching, the first new initiative will coordinate support by government agencies, the National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore Computer Society through career centres, career fairs and mentoring.

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