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Former MFA scholar gets 3-weeks jail for forging email to bring pet parakeets back Singapore

A former scholar who worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has been sentenced with three-weeks jail on Friday (21 Oct) for forging two official emails from Singaporean and Japanese authorities in an attempt to bring his pet parakeets to Singapore.

CNA reported, it was revealed in a district court on Friday  that Jonathan Quek could not get official clearance for his four pet birds when he wanted to come home after completing his studies in Tokyo in 2014.

Singapore’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) requires birds to be kept in isolation in an approved facility for 21 days prior to import, and they must test negative for avian influenza during this time.

However, Quek’s lawyers Sunil Sudheesan and Diana Ngiam said, the only approved facility in Tokyo did not offer isolation services for birds and did not have qualified bird experts to examine the parakeets to certify them as healthy.

Mr Sudheesan added that Quek would have had to travel three hours for each one way to feed and care for the birds, as the facility would not take care of their daily needs.

When Quek informed the AVA about this, the authority told him to check with Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), to seek approval for his home as the designated isolation premises for the birds. But MAFF said this was not permissible.

On 15 Sep, Quek decided to forge an email from AVA veterinarian, Dr Grace Sum, to an MAFF official. He modified her email to give the false impression that the 21-day isolation period was not required for the birds to be exported to Singapore and that the avian influenza test could be carried out in Singapore.

Following the email, MAFF issued export permits for the four parakeets and allowed the birds to be exported to Singapore.

However, Quek could not collect the birds from Singapore’s Changi Animal and Plant Quarantine Station because he could not show the certificates stating the birds had been quarantined for 21 days prior to export.

Quek tried to use the export permits, but these did not have the results for avian influenza tests.

Then the station manager placed the birds under quarantine.

In response to this, Quek forged a second email on 8 Oct. Using a ‘spoof’ website which masked his email address, Quek sent an email to the station manager claiming to be MAFF official Tatsuya Iwanaga.

The email explained why no documents had been issued and stated that the birds had been isolated for 21 days.

The forged MAFF email also said, “MAFF can not issue a new export quarantine certificate if we do not see the parakeets again”.

After being quarantined for seven days, the birds were released to Quek, for the officials found them healthy.

Quek’s offenses were revealed when the station manager replied to the email with copies to two other Japanese officials, to let them know they should comply with regulations for future exports of birds to Singapore.

Calling for a ‘short, custodial sentence’, Mr Sudheesan had appealed to the court to recognise Quek’s difficulty after he tried several times to come to an arrangement with authorities but was always rejected.

Quek served in the Americas Directorate and the Diplomatic Academy in MFA but he left the ministry after his misdemeanor found out.

For such forgery, he could have been jailed for up to four years and fined.