Police to charge TOC editor Terry Xu and another man with criminal defamation over online article on MP Seah Kian Peng

Terry Xu Yuan Chen, 36, the editor of The Online Citizen (TOC), will be charged in court on Thursday (Dec 13) with criminal defamation, the police said in a statement.

Daniel Augustin De Costa, 35, will also be charged with criminal defamation and unauthorised access to computer material under the Computer Misuse Act.

This comes after the Info-communications and Media Development Authority (IMDA) lodged a police report on Oct 5 over an article titled "The Take Away from Seah Kian Ping's Facebook Post", written by one Willy Sum and published on The Online Citizen's website.

The article had alleged corruption against certain individuals.

The police were given sanction by the Attorney-General's Chambers to investigate and were granted a court warrant to search the houses of Xu and Willy Sum.

They conducted a search of the two homes on Nov 20.

The police then found evidence indicating that the article was actually written by De Costa under the name of Willy Sum.

Investigations suggest De Costa had sent the article to the Online Citizen using Willy Sum's email account.

Xu subsequently published the article on the website without verifying the identity of its author.

The police applied for a search warrant against De Costa on the same day and arrived at his house at 2.50pm as he was leaving for a flight that was scheduled to depart at 3.45pm.

Upon police's engagement, De Costa facilitated a search at his house.

Xu and De Costa will be charged for criminal defamation for the publication and authorship respectively of the article.

De Costa will also be charged for unauthorised access to computer material for logging into William Sum's email account and sending the email without William Sum's consent.

The police also addressed allegations made against them:

"There were allegations made against police’s actions with regard to this case, including how Police had supposedly over-reached by seizing the electronic equipment of those involved.

"As part of its investigations, the police had seized electronic equipment including laptops, mobile phones and hard drives from Xu and De Costa. 

"This was necessary to secure and preserve evidence. 

"The seizure of the electronic equipment from Xu and De Costa uncovered evidence pointing towards the identity of the true author of the article, in this case, De Costa.

"It was also alleged in a posting written ostensibly by De Costa’s mother that the police had unreasonably prevented De Costa from leaving Singapore for an overseas trip.

"The police had to act quickly as we had obtained information which suggested that De Costa was the true author of the offending article."

Anyone guilty of criminal defamation may be jailed up to two years, fined, or both.

Anyone guilty of unauthorised access to computer material may be fined up to $5,000 or jailed up to two years, or both.