SINGAPORE — A couple on trial for withholding information from public health officials about their whereabouts after the husband tested positive for COVID-19 applied successfully to return to China pending the continuation of their trial.
Chinese nationals Hu Jun, 39, and Shi Sha, 37, appeared in court on Friday (9 October) to apply to leave Singapore’s jurisdiction until 20 January next year.
Their lawyer Dhanwant Singh said in the hearing that both clients had been away from home since 22 January, and that it would be a full year by the time their trial resumes.
Hu who works as a financial advisor, claimed that his livelihood was at stake due to his absence. His lawyer stated that Hu has been in charge of million-dollar investments and that his presence in China was “crucial”. Hu had been away from home so long that it was difficult to liaise with clients, said Singh.
The couple has also been away from their family, including two children aged four and 10.
Both are on bail of $10,000 and were prepared to furnish a higher bail if it should be imposed, said the lawyer.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Timotheus Koh objected to the application, citing the couple as a flight risk due to their lack of roots in Singapore.
Both entered on visit passes and had no source of employment in Singapore or next of kin here, said the DPP.
Despite the lack of ties, the defence made the application asking the court to believe “in good faith” that his clients would return to Singapore to continue their trial, DPP Koh noted.
All the court had was the accused persons’ word that they would not abscond, and this was insufficient, argued the DPP.
First to be charged under Infectious Diseases Act
Shi and Hu were the first to be charged under the Infectious Diseases Act (IDA) earlier this year after it was revealed that they had possibly lied about their whereabouts between 22 and 29 January.
Hu had contracted COVID-19 and tested positive for the virus on 31 January. The couple claimed trial to their charges on 17 August and were due to resume their trial from 25 to 28 January next year.
The bailors for Hu and Shi, both of whom were their acquaintances, also addressed the court.
One said that he was in constant contact with Hu and that the couple was happy to attend hearings to “salvage” their reputation. He noted that Hu was established in China for a “big financial advisory firm” so the case had a negative impact on his reputation.
The bailor said that he was “very happy to provide any assistance to make sure Hu comes back”.
Shi’s bailor got to know her after she arrived in Singapore. The bailor said he had known Shi for almost two years and trusted that she would return. He said he communicated with Shi over messaging applications about her situation.
Addressing the court through a Mandarin interpreter, Shi said she missed her children. Since coming to Singapore, her husband had taken the proactive step of going to the hospital to be tested and had not infected anyone.
She added that she and her husband had been cooperative in investigations and will be responsible in returning to Singapore.
“My husband is the sole breadwinner and his clients (have) already indicated that they would like to withdraw the funds,” she said, adding that they have already “faced a lot of criticisms and unfair treatment” due to their court case.
“The fact that I brought my children here to face education is because I have love for this land. I will not do anything to damage it. We will definitely come back to prove our innocence,” she said.
Increased bail by $80,000
District Judge Ng Peng Hong granted the application but increased the bail for both by $80,000.
The couple must also furnish their complete travel itinerary, and full details of where they will be staying and their contact numbers before departing to the investigation officer. Both must also remain contactable by the investigation officer and must surrender their passport upon return, as part of their conditions.
DPP Koh then applied successfully for the order to be stayed, pending a review by the High Court. This means that both Hu and Shi are not free to leave yet.
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