A Singapore foreign ministry D-G sentenced to jail for diplomatic bag misuse

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Gilbert Oh Hin Kwan has been on no-pay leave while investigations are ongoing. - PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE (Bernama): A director-general at Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) was sentenced to a week in jail on Monday for giving false information to a public servant over the use of diplomatic bags to deliver luxury watches from China to Singapore for a friend, Straits Times (ST) reported.

Gilbert Oh Hin Kwan, 45, who pleaded guilty on April 26, will appeal against his sentence. The court earlier rejected recommendations from the prosecution and defence for a fine.

District Judge Sharmila Sripathy-Shanaz in her judgment, said a fine was inappropriate, as "the serious potential consequences to the integrity of the public service and the MFA domestically - in so far as its internal investigative process was undermined - and internationally, justify a custodial sentence as a starting point”, ST reported.

Oh faced two cheating charges for misusing the diplomatic bag service. These charges were considered during sentencing.

A diplomatic bag is used to send documents or articles intended for official use between diplomats. Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the diplomatic bag shall not be opened or detained.

According to the daily, Oh’s troubles with the law started when he wanted to do a personal favour for a non-diplomat female friend identified in court documents as Jiang Si by helping her send her watches from China to Singapore.

To facilitate this, Oh lied to his colleague, Dion Loke Cheng Wang, who was then attached to the Singapore Embassy in Beijing. Oh told Loke that the parents of his Chinese diplomat friend wanted to have "something in a package” delivered to Oh in Singapore, and requested that it be sent via the diplomatic bag service.

Since the diplomatic bag service was suspended at the time, Loke did not use it. Instead, on January 17, 2023, he took a flight from China to Singapore, carrying the sealed package in his personal luggage. Loke was stopped by Singapore’s Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officers.

The package contained 21 luxury watches, a ring, and seven children’s books, all belonging to Jiang and her partner.

The MFA was alerted, and on January 19, 2023, Oh was asked to provide a written account of the circumstances. Oh claimed that the watches belonged to his father. He initially repeated this lie to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) on January 19, 2023, before revealing the truth in a subsequent statement the next day, the daily reported.

Oh had been on no-pay leave while investigations were ongoing. - Bernama

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