Singapore

SFA chief’s personal assistant charged over Covid-19 info leak

She is accused of leaking information on school closures during circuit breaker

The personal assistant to the director-general of the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) was charged yesterday under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) with leaking information on school closures during the Covid-19 circuit breaker last year.

Noorain Jubli, 38, faces two charges of wrongful communication of information - the second such case in the past week.

Her husband Khairul Annuar Zakaria, 39, faces one such charge and another for soliciting wrongful communication of information.

The information was allegedly taken from a draft joint media statement by the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Ministry of Education.

It was to announce details of the implementation of full home-based learning by schools and institutes of higher learning, and the closure of pre-schools and student care centres.

Noorain had accessed the classified information from the director-general's e-mail inbox. She allegedly then sent the information to her husband via WhatsApp before it was officially released.

On Tuesday night, the police said they received a report on April 3 last year about the incident.

Noorain had apparently taken a picture of the media statement off her computer screen.

Her husband then allegedly sent the image to a WhatsApp chat group with 13 members.

Noorain is also accused of having snapped eight photos of a list of essential services that would continue operating during the circuit breaker and sent them to her husband, at his request.

If convicted, they can be fined up to $2,000 on each charge and jailed for up to two years.

They are out on $5,000 bail and are expected to plead guilty on June 11.

In response to queries, SFA said Noorain was immediately suspended from her duties in April last year when police investigations started.

"SFA has since reviewed and tightened information security protocols and processes," its spokesman said.

Sixteen others who received the information and disseminated it will be given written warnings for wrongful communication, said the police.

Last Wednesday, a former deputy lead at the Ministry of Health (MOH) was charged under the OSA with leaking Singapore's daily Covid-19 case numbers 22 times last year.

Zhao Zheng, 36, had allegedly shared the daily numbers in a WeChat group that had 49 other members, before MOH officially released the numbers.

She is also accused of obtaining confidential details of a Covid-19 patient without authorisation and giving the information to co-accused Tang Lin.

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.

COURT & CRIME