The Police will be charging a 36-year-old male, Xu Yuan Chen, and a 35-year-old male, De Costa Daniel Augustin, in Court on 13 Dec 2018 for criminal defamation under the Penal Code. De Costa will be facing an additional charge of unauthorised access to computer material under the Computer Misuse Act.
On 5 Oct 2018, the Info-communications and Media Development Authority (IMDA) lodged a Police report pertaining to an article titled The Take Away from Seah Kian Ping's Facebook Post, written by one Willy Sum and published on the website www.theonlinecitizen.com (The Online Citizen). The article had alleged corruption against some persons. The Police, upon receipt of the report from IMDA, consulted the Attorney-General's Chambers and were given sanction to investigate. The Police also applied to the Courts for and were granted a warrant to search the houses of Xu as well as Willy Sum's houses.
On 20 Nov 2018, Police conducted a search of the two houses. While searching Willy Sum's house, the Police found evidence indicating that the article was not written by him. It was instead written by De Costa under the name Willy Sum. The investigations suggest that De Costa had sent the article to The Online Citizen using Willy Sum's email account without the consent of Willy Sum. Xu, who is the editor of The Online Citizen, published the article on the website without verifying the identity of the author.
After it was uncovered that the article was likely to be written by De Costa and not Willy Sum, Police applied for a search warrant against De Costa on the same day (i.e. 20 Nov 2018). When the Police arrived at his house at 2.50 pm, he was spotted leaving for a flight that was due to take off at 3.45 pm. Upon Police's engagement, De Costa facilitated a search at his house.
Xu and De Costa will be charged for criminal defamation for the publication and authorship respectively of the article. De Costa will also be charged for unauthorised access to computer material, for logging into Willy Sum's email account and sending the email without Willy Sum's consent.
There were allegations made against Police's actions with regard to this case, including how Police had supposedly over-reached by seizing the electronic equipment of those involved. As part of its investigations, the Police had seized electronic equipment including laptops, mobile phones and hard drives from Xu and De Costa. This was necessary to secure and preserve evidence. The seizure of the electronic equipment from Xu and De Costa uncovered evidence pointing towards the identity of the true author of the article, in this case, De Costa.
It was also alleged in a posting written ostensibly by De Costa's mother that the Police had unreasonably prevented De Costa from leaving Singapore for an overseas trip. The Police had to act quickly as we had obtained information which suggested that De Costa was the true author of the offending article.
Anyone convicted of the offence of criminal defamation under Section 500 of the Penal Code, Chapter 224, can be punished with imprisonment for a term of up to two years, or with a fine, or both. Anyone convicted of the offence of unauthorised access to computer material, can be punished with a fine not exceeding $5000/-, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years, or both.
Source: Singapore Police Force