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NZ man held in Singapore Airlines e-mail bomb hoax

September 13, 2001

SINGAPORE, Sept 14 (Reuters) - An IBM employee from New Zealand was arrested in Singapore over a hoax e-mail message claiming a bomb was aboard a Singapore Airlines plane bound for South Africa, police and company officials said on Friday.

The phony threat — made just a day after the devastating terror attacks in New York and Washington — delayed Flight SQ 422 from Singapore to Johannesburg for six hours on Wednesday.

If convicted of sending the false message, the man could face up to seven years in jail and a fine of $50,000 ($28,750).

Police said the suspect was picked up at a lounge in Changi Airport as he waited to board the Boeing 747-400 plane that was the target of the hoax.

"On the 12th of September at Changi Airport, a male New Zealander, 35 years old, was arrested and is being investigated for transmitting a message which is believed to be foul or fabricated," a police spokesman said.

IBM Singapore Pte confirmed the New Zealand man worked for the U.S. computer giant.

"The person is an employee of IBM," a spokeswoman told Reuters. "At this point in time, he's working in Singapore but he's not actually from our office."

She said IBM Singapore had cooperated with police in tracking the origins of the e-mail message and identifying the suspect.

An SIA spokeswoman said she could not comment on whether the airline had received the e-mail directly or any details of the incident.

"I can't confirm anything at all because it's under police investigation," she said.

Singapore police, who are also responsible for security at Changi, have gone on heightened alert in the wake of the airline attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon on Tuesday.

By John O'Callaghan, Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited.


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