Covid-19: Jail for Singaporean man who lied about travel history so he could serve stay-home notice in his flat

The court heard that Vijeyakumar Z Joseph wanted to serve his stay-home notice at his flat, rather than at a dedicated facility. — TODAY pic
The court heard that Vijeyakumar Z Joseph wanted to serve his stay-home notice at his flat, rather than at a dedicated facility. — TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, June 22 — After returning from Indonesia late last year, Vijeyakumar Z Joseph lied in a declaration form about the countries he had travelled to so that he could opt out of serving his stay-home notice at a dedicated facility.

His ruse succeeded and he began serving the notice at his Ang Mo Kio flat, where his younger brother and father also lived.

He got away with this for three days before he was caught.

For his actions, the 58-year-old Singaporean, who works as a surveyor at a construction company, was jailed for three weeks yesterday. He will begin serving his sentence on July 5.

He pleaded guilty to one charge under the Infectious Diseases Act.

The court heard that he left for Jakarta for a business trip on Nov 13 last year.

Two days before he was to return to Singapore, he accessed the SafeTravel website in a bid to opt out of serving his stay-home notice at a dedicated facility.

Stay-home notices are meant to curb the possible spread of Covid-19 from travellers entering the country.

In his online application, he answered a question on which countries or regions he had visited in the last 14 days before his departure to Singapore.

He ticked all the checkboxes for Finland, Sri Lanka, Thailand, South Korea, Turkey and Fiji.

At the time, travellers who had been to those countries could opt out of serving their stay-home notices at dedicated facilities if they fulfilled two criteria, including that they occupied their residence alone or with household members who were serving stay-home notices with the same travel history and isolation period.

On November 22 last year, he then flew from Jakarta to Singapore on a Singapore Airlines flight.

An Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officer told him that he had to serve his stay-home notice at a dedicated facility, but he challenged the officer by showing him an email that said his application had been approved.

The officer then gave him a declaration form for opt-out travellers, which he signed and dated.

He also told the officer that he would be alone at home, then left Changi Airport and went home.

Three days later, another ICA officer visited him to find out why he had made a false declaration and to tell him that he needed to move to a dedicated facility immediately.

The officer then noticed that his brother and father, who did not travel with him to Indonesia, were there.

Vijeyakumar underwent a swab test the next day and tested negative for Covid-19.

‘Blatant disregard for authority’

Deputy Public Prosecutor Bjorn Tan sought at least one month of jail, arguing that Vijeyakumar’s motive for lying was frivolous and that he clearly intended to make a false declaration.

In mitigation, Vijeyakumar’s lawyer Amolat Singh said that his client was “feeling very tired and sleepy” at Changi Airport and should have been more circumspect when signing the declaration form.

“Seeking to stay home was for no good reason, it was frivolous. He said in hindsight that the dedicated facilities were far better than home,” Singh added.

The lawyer also said that Vijeyakumar thought it would be all right if he simply remained in his room and avoided his home’s common area.

While he has prior criminal convictions, Singh noted that Vijeyakumar has largely stayed out of trouble for the past two decades.

District Judge Janet Wang ruled that Vijeyakumar did not make his false declaration on the spur of the moment and had “demonstrated blatant disregard for authority and lack of remorse”.

For breaching Covid-19 laws, he could have been jailed for up to six months or fined up to S$10,000 (RM30,826.81), or both. — TODAY

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