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Singapore’s Indian-origin minister Balakrishnan receives extortion letter with fake and manipulated obscene photos

Balakrishnan said in a Facebook post that several other MPs and himself received letters containing a 'fake distasteful image accompanied by a threat'.
Last Updated : 20 April 2024, 12:54 IST
Last Updated : 20 April 2024, 12:54 IST

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Singapore: Singapore’s Indian-origin Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and several members of Parliament have received extortion letters containing fake photos of themselves in obscene situations.

Balakrishnan said in a Facebook post that several other MPs and himself received letters containing a “fake distasteful image accompanied by a threat”.

“This conduct is deplorable and totally contrary to the values and good practices that we are trying to inculcate in our society. We have filed police reports and will take appropriate legal action,” he said.

The police said late Friday night that the letters, which were sent by post to the victims’ workplaces, contained pictures of the victims’ faces superimposed onto obscene photographs of a man and a woman purportedly in an “intimate and compromising position”.

There have been over 70 police reports since March about such extortion letters, according to a Channel News Asia report on Saturday.

The letters warned of “threatening consequences” unless they contacted the email address provided.

If the victims contacted the email address, they would be asked to transfer money to prevent “compromising photographs and videos” of themselves from being leaked and exposed on social media, the police said.

Balakrishnan said: “In this age of deep fakes and scams, we must take a strong collective stand against such conduct.”

“Inside was a distasteful photo where my face was digitally manipulated onto one of the figures, accompanied by an extortion demand,” he wrote on Facebook on Saturday.

He said that while it is not uncommon for public figures to face extortion scams, the rise of “deepfakes” makes it “harder to discern reality from fiction”.

“With readily available tools, anyone can create deepfake content within minutes,” he added.

“This can pose a significant threat to our social fabric. Unchecked, this can affect our public standing and those we love. We must unite as a community to combat these fraudulent acts,” he wrote.

The police advised members of the public to ignore any instructions to initiate contact or make transfers if they received such letters.

They are also asked to report the matter to the police immediately and put the letter in a separate storage bag to hand over to the police.

Investigations are ongoing, according to the Channel report.

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Published 20 April 2024, 12:54 IST

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