Suspect in checkpoint breach charged

The Mercedes-Benz driver, who allegedly breached a security barrier at Woodlands Checkpoint meant to stop unauthorised vehicles from entering Singapore, was charged in court on Monday.

Tan Chu Seng, 64, is accused of committing a rash act by driving the Mercedes-Benz recklessly on Saturday, causing injury to police officer Safie Mahrom.

The Singapore permanent resident from Malaysia also faces a single charge of vandalism after he allegedly drove into the cat-claw security barrier, damaging it.

Both offences took place at Woodlands Checkpoint, one of the busiest land immigration checkpoints in the world.

District Judge Eddy Tham granted the prosecution's application for Tan to be remanded at Jurong Police Division for a week for further investigations.

Tan had asked for a shorter remand of four days, saying he suffers from hypertension, acidic urine and diabetes, but his request was rejected by the court. Instead, the judge told him to inform police investigators about his condition.

He had apparently driven the Singapore-registered car through the checkpoint at 4.05pm on Saturday after he was stopped for a boot check. He managed to do so because the security barrier failed. The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said on Sunday that it was the first time the barrier had failed.

Tan will be back in court next Monday. If convicted of committing a rash act, he could be jailed for up to one year and/or fined up to $5,000. For the vandalism charge, he faces a fine of up to $2,000 or up to three years' jail.

The latest breach comes barely two months after a similar incident on January 17, involving Malaysian teacher Nurul Rohana Ishak, 27, who slipped past immigration officers at Woodlands Checkpoint. She was arrested three days later and now faces charges, including that of criminal trespass.

Hours after the second breach, a video showing the car taking less than 20 seconds to drive over the barrier was posted online.

The ICA did not dispute the authenticity of the video, which appeared to have been recorded using a smartphone off a computer showing the closed-circuit television recording. But the authorities warned that the video leak is now under an Official Secrets Act investigation, and that the clip should not be circulated.

The failure of the barrier to stop the car - a 24-year-old Mercedes-Benz sedan - drew a sharp rebuke from Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who said procedures and training at ICA also needed to be "improved sharply".

Mr Teo, who is also Home Affairs Minister, said in a statement on Sunday that he had directed the commissioner of the ICA to implement measures to better secure Singapore's checkpoints as soon as possible.

The commissioner "will also review if there are further enhancements needed" after the latest breach.

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