Singapore official charged for sending Panadol, luxury watches in diplomatic bags

A director general at Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) was charged on Thursday over mailing boxes of Panadol and luxury watches using diplomatic bags.

Gilbert Oh Hin Kwan, 44, faces two counts of cheating and one count of providing false information to a public servant.

In December last year, Oh sent a package containing boxes of Panadol – which contains paracetamol – from Singapore to Beijing using the diplomatic bag service.

He allegedly hid from MFA that the package was intended for a personal acquaintance, rather than an MFA colleague in Beijing.

“MFA was induced to accept the package for dispatch via the diplomatic bag service on that basis, which it would not have done had it known the truth,” said the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).

According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, diplomatic bags are used to send documents or items for official use.

Under the convention, diplomatic bags cannot be opened or detained. The bags must “bear visible external marks of their character”.

‘Drink water and rest’: Singapore reacts to city’s Chinese panic buying Panadol

In December 2022, Chinese nationals in Singapore queued up to send flu medicine back home to relatives amid surging Covid-19 cases in China and reports of drug shortages.

Singapore’s Health Ministry (MOH) reminded people to buy medicine in quantities that are sufficient only for their own consumption, and said it was aware that retailers have seen increased demand for over-the-counter medicine to treat fever, cough and cold.

Some retailers, including FairPrice and Watsons, imposed purchase limits on Panadol and Nurofen products. Nurofen contains ibuprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, that can be used to treat fever.

Demand for over-the-counter flu and cough medicine moderated at the start of the year, Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary said on January 10.

Oh is also accused of instigating his colleague to dispatch a package containing luxury watches from China to Singapore on January 12 using the diplomatic bag service.

He allegedly did not disclose that the package belonged to and was intended for someone else, said CPIB.

A week later, he purportedly lied to MFA Deputy Secretary Ong Eng Chuan about the package containing the luxury watches, claiming that the watches belonged to Oh’s father.

Singapore jails repeat Panadol thief who stole dozens of boxes of painkillers

Oh was represented by Shashi Nathan and Harjeet Kaur from Withers KhattarWong.

Nathan said he needed to collate some documents and that the matter was “quite sensitive”.

He asked for his client’s attendance to be dispensed with – meaning his client would not need to attend certain future hearings but have his lawyer represent him – and was granted this request.

If found guilty of cheating, Oh may be jailed for up to three years, fined, or both. He may also be jailed for up to two years, fined, or both if he is convicted of lying to a public servant.

CNA has contacted MFA for more information.

This article was first published by CNA

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