Mastermind of obscene video-sharing group jailed, fined in 'worst case of its kind'

Wan Ting Koh
Reporter
Singapore State Courts (AFP Photo/Mohd Fyrol)

The founder of an online group that shared and distributed voyeuristic videos of semi-nude and partially undressed women was given the maximum two years’ jail and fined $80,000 in a case that the prosecution called the “worst of its kind”.

Following a two-day trial earlier this week, former security guard Ali V P Mohamed, 46, was found guilty of one count of possessing 801 obscene films for the purposes of distribution, a breach under the Films Act.

In passing the verdict, District Judge (DJ) Kessler Soh pointed out that Ali, who is single and lives with his mother, did not dispute possessing the films and, in fact, admitted that there were more films. He rejected the argument that Ali kept the films for the purpose of categorisation, and to expose the wrongdoers.

In late 2016, Ali created a Google group called SG Horizon for the purpose of sharing and circulating obscene films.

Ali also actively promoted SG Horizon to online users of other sex-themed groups like Little SG, and recruited others to engage in such offences. The prosecution identified Ali as the mastermind of the scheme.

SG Horizon had over 200 members exchanging films that captured unwitting women and school girls in various states of undress while they were using the toilet or trying on clothes in changing rooms. Some of the acts were captured through hidden cameras placed in the facilities, which were situated in schools, fast food joints and shopping malls.

Despite taking the defence that he created group in order to expose its users, Ali changed tack during the close of the trial. He claimed that he had created the group in order to “understand” the videos. He also denied sharing and uploading obscene videos on the group and imposing rules on the group.

A co-accused, Joel Chew Wei Chin, 27, testified during the trial that Ali imposed a rule that members of the group had to share at least one obscene video a week or risk being kicked out. Chew, the first member of the video-sharing group to be convicted, is currently serving a six-month jail term for possessing 280 obscene films for distribution.

However Ali denied that he set the conditions, maintaining that he simply asked members to share or disclose any information that they had. In the same vein, he also denied requiring members to upload and share videos.

Ali also insisted that he had no intention to share or sell his “personal collection” of obscene films, which he had obtained from other websites. He added that these videos were still available online while he was still on bail.

The prosecution, represented by Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Houston Johannus, called Ali’s claim of exposing users “absurd” as he had not taken any steps to report the users to the authorities.

Calling it the “worst case” involving a creator of an online voyeur group, the prosecution asked for the maximum sentence of two years and a fine of $80,000 to be imposed on Ali.

“The prospect of these explicit films of (the victims’) faces and genitalia being viewed across the internet, with no reasonable expectation that they can ever be removed completely from circulation is a source of unending distress, humiliation and trauma for (them).

“Such a systematic and large scale violation of the privacy of the women in public toilets and changing rooms also cause considerable public disquiet and concern.”

The prosecution said that the acts were “especially perverse” as they captured unsuspecting women in their private moments to satisfy “deviant desires” for sexual gratification.

It stressed that a large number of victims were involved in the videos as each of the 801 videos, which were filmed from 2014 to 2016, captured a different victim.

“Unlike some pornographic videos where there are actors and actresses paid to perform sexual acts in front of the cameras, the subjects of these films are ordinary women and girls, they are someone’s sister, someone’s daughter, someone’s wife, they are someone we love,” said the prosecution.

In mitigation, Ali, who was dressed in prison garb, said that he was “deeply sorry” and “sad” for the victims.

“Deep inside my heart, I feel sorry for all girls who are in videos which are available still online. After release, I will do my best to get video out of internet. I feel it is my duty to help these girls get their video out from internet,” he said.

In reply, DJ Soh told Ali, “This court condemns what you have done. And I hope you are really remorseful as you said you are.” He added that Ali deserved the maximum punishment.

If unable to pay the $80,000 fine, Ali, who was fined $2,100 for possessing uncensored films in 1999, will serve another eight months in jail.

Apart from Ali and Chew, three others – Shaun Lee, 28; Clarence Tang Jia Ming, 25; and Kenneth Ong Yi Jie, 27 – who were involved in the group have yet to be dealt with by the court.