Vietnamese woman accused of extortion plot using manipulated photographs

SINGAPORE – A Vietnamese national allegedly linked to a group that manipulated photographs for use in extortion has been charged in court.

Photographs of people, including politicians, were manipulated to show them in intimate situations.

Nguyen Lan Dung was one of 12 people investigated for alleged involvement in using bank accounts and SIM cards for extortion. She allegedly helped other people gain access to banking services provided by UOB.

Seven men and four other women, aged between 18 and 46, remain under investigation.

The 23-year-old was charged on May 2 with one count of facilitating unauthorized access to computer material under the Computer Misuse Act.

Dung, who did not enter a plea, will be remanded in custody for further investigation. His case will be heard again on May 9.

He is allegedly part of a group of people who sent extortion letters between March and April containing photos manipulated to show the recipients in intimate or compromising positions.

Recipients were asked to contact the email address provided or face threatening consequences. Several politicians were among those who received the extortion letters.

On April 20, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and MPs Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC) and Edward Chia (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) posted on social media saying they had lodged police reports.

Court documents showed that Dung had allegedly instigated someone known as Tuan Hung by altering the details of a UOB bank account, including the contact number and email address.

She is accused of giving the account credentials to Tuan Hung and other unknown people.

In a May 1 statement, police said they received more than 170 reports of victims receiving extortion letters between March and April.

“In one of the reports, a 50-year-old victim suffered a loss of $20,000 after responding to the email address and transferring the money to a bank account allegedly provided by the other party,” police said.

Dung and the other 11 suspects were found to have been facilitating the criminal activities of overseas scam syndicates, police said.

This was done by obtaining bank accounts for criminal activities, facilitating or assisting in unauthorized access to Singpass accounts or illegally purchasing SIM cards.

Authorities confiscated electronic devices linked to the operation and recovered at least $115,000 in alleged criminal proceeds.

Dung can be imprisoned for up to two years, fined or both if convicted of facilitating unauthorized access to computer material.