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‘I wanted to catch culprits red-handed,’ Obscene video-sharing group owner claims in court

SINGAPORE — Claiming to be perturbed by the hidden cameras he found in the toilets at some Orchard Road malls, an unemployed man purportedly created a voyeuristic video-sharing group online so that he can trick those who own such films into exposing themselves.

Ali VP Mohamed, the owner of a Google Group called SG Horizon Club, has been charged with possessing 801 obscene films for the purposes of distribution. TODAY FILE PHOTO

Ali VP Mohamed, the owner of a Google Group called SG Horizon Club, has been charged with possessing 801 obscene films for the purposes of distribution. TODAY FILE PHOTO

SINGAPORE — Claiming to be perturbed by the hidden cameras he found in the toilets at some Orchard Road malls, an unemployed man purportedly created a voyeuristic video-sharing group online so that he can trick those who own such films into exposing themselves.

That was the defence that Ali VP Mohamed, the owner of a Google Group called SG Horizon Club, put up on Tuesday (Jan 30) against the charge of possessing 801 obscene films for the purposes of distribution. The 46-year-old was arrested at his home in Buangkok Crescent on Nov 23, 2016, two months after he formed the group, which had about 200 members at its peak.

Taking the stand on the second day of his trial on Tuesday, Ali, who had previously worked as a security guard for more than 20 years, told the court that he took it upon himself to be a vigilante as he was “upset as a Singaporean” over how rampant hidden cameras were in many public places here.

He added that he was surprised to find that the discreet cameras he had discovered in toilet basins and false ceilings could be purchased for as little as S$10 from Sim Lim Square, and other better equipped ones could record up to eight hours of footage.

“I was eager to collect notes as much as possible,” said Ali in his court testimony. He noted that he was introduced to the obscene video scene by searching “Singapore hidden cameras”. He amassed his videos by downloading them off Tumblr, a microblogging and social networking website, and porn sites.

Ali said he had been “protecting and helping” many people since he was 18, when he served as a full-time National Serviceman in the Singapore Police Force, and “destroyed many hidden cameras” when he was a security guard. He also claimed that he had not reported his finds to the police as he wanted to catch the culprits “red-handed”.

These claims were disputed by sales engineer Joel Chew Weichen – who was jailed six months for having 280 obscene films for distribution last September – who took the stand on Tuesday. He said the club seemed like “just another (platform) similar to LittleSG”, another Google group that started before SG Horizon Club.

Its main purpose was to “share videos”, testified the former member of both Google groups, as well as sex-themed forum Sammyboy, and he noted that he found videos of women using the toilets’ facilities, and trying on clothes in changing rooms, on Ali’s group.

Ali had also imposed a rule that members of SG Horizon Club had to share at least one obscene video a week, or they would be kicked out of the group, said Chew, the first member of a voyeuristic video-sharing ring to be convicted.

Five men, including Ali and Chew, were caught during the course of a police operation after a tip-off from a Ministry of Education (MOE) officer. It was previously reported that the MOE staff had lodged a report after he found out about videos on Sammyboy of various schoolgirls relieving themselves or trying on clothes.

The other three men were: fund accountant Shaun Lee, 28, who was found with 300 films at his Compassvale Walk home; digital marketing specialist Clarence Tang Jia Ming, 25, who was found with 300 films at his Loyang Rise home; and customer service officer Ong Yi Jie alias Kenneth, 27, who was found with 400 videos at his home in Segar Road. Their cases are still before the courts.

The court on Tuesday saw a screenshot of the discussion threads in the group, which included one encouraging users to share voyeuristic videos from a specific Junior College, which cannot be named due to a gag order.

Mr Chew further revealed that on the group’s collection lists included “bathroom toilet” and “public toilet” videos, and that members often shared screenshots of what they had for trading.

The videos were shared by uploading content to the group directly, or through Skype and Volafile, which automatically deleted files after a few days, removing any logs permanently so it would be hard to trace users’ IP addresses.

Despite the testimony, Ali, who is not represented by a lawyer, insisted that he created the group and collected the videos “to understand if they are Singapore (homemade) videos” and was “not interested” in its contents.

Ali also denied that he had distributed any videos on SG Horizon Club as he is against any “video that records something without the person’s awareness”.

Deputy Public Prosecutors (DPPs) Houston Johannus and Li Yihong argued that Ali’s defence, which was only given on Aug 18, 2017, instead of when he was charged on Nov 25, 2016, was “an afterthought” and a lie.

Ali will return to court on Wednesday, when he and the DPPs will present their sentencing submissions.
If convicted, he could be fined at least S$2,000 per film found in his possession, up to a maximum of S$80,000, or jailed up to two years, or both.

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