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Judicial CP - July 2007

Corpun file 19309


The Straits Times, Singapore, 1 July 2007

3 extra strokes for prisoner: Govt regrets error

Steps taken to ensure it won't happen again. Govt rejects family's demand for $3m compensation

By Tan Dawn Wei & K.C. Vijayan

THE Government said it regrets an error which led to a prisoner being caned three more strokes than he was sentenced to and has taken steps to ensure that the mistake will not happen again.

A joint statement by the Ministry of Law and the Ministry of Home Affairs last night also revealed that the prisoner's family has asked for $3 million in compensation, which the Government has rejected.

This was how the mistake came about: On Feb 28, Dickson Tan Yong Wen, 20, was sentenced to a total of nine months in jail and five strokes of the cane for two offences involving abetting an illegal moneylender to harass a debtor.

But a court clerk added three more strokes to the punishment when he was preparing the paperwork for Tan's commitment to prison. The clerk has since resigned.

The caning was carried out on March 29 and the authorities said prisons officers observed all procedures relating to the administration of the caning, including verifying with Tan that the number of strokes of caning was correct.

The statement said that Tan did not object to the number of strokes he would be receiving on three separate occasions: on March 1 when he was being interviewed by a prison officer during admission to Admiralty West Prison; on March 29 when he acknowledged on an official document that the eight strokes to be meted out to him was correct; and shortly before his caning, when he confirmed to prison officers and a medical officer that the number of strokes was correct.

When contacted yesterday, Tan's mother, Madam Ho Gee Lin, 52, contradicted the statement and said that her son had alerted two prison officers to the error prior to the caning.

'My son is prepared to go for a lie detector test,' she said.

The housewife said the officers had dismissed her son's protests and he decided to drop the matter because he was afraid of being punished for insubordination.

To ensure there is no repeat of such an incident, court officers now have to follow checklists when doing the paperwork for commitment to prison.

Madam Ho said she had initially asked for $150,000 in compensation but raised it to $300,000 because she felt that the authorities were not taking her complaint seriously.

She said her lawyer, Mr Joseph Chen, then advised her to seek $3 million in compensation based on legal principles in the United States and Britain where the courts award punitive damages.

Tan is now on home detention until next month.

Copyright © 2007 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

Corpun file 19312


The New Paper, Singapore, 1 July 2007

Prisoners given chance to confirm sentence beforehand

By Arul John and Crystal Chan

IN caning carried out by Singapore Prisons, the prisoner is first strapped at his ankles and wrists with leather cuffs attached to a trestle.

Before the caning, the 1.2metre-long, 13mm-thick rattan is soaked in water, according to previous newspaper reports.

This is to prevent the cane from splitting and shearing the skin.

The cane is also treated with antiseptic before it is used.

The prisoner's upper body is covered with a protective pad to protect his vital organs.

But the prisoner's buttocks are exposed for the caning. It is done in a special room in the prison complex.

In a previous report, a prisons spokesman said: 'The caning does not cause 'skin and flesh to fly' as alleged by critics. It may, however, leave bruises and marks.'

The spokesman added: 'Our law only prescribes caning with a rattan cane, and not flogging with a whip or cat-o'-nine-tails.'

Before the caning, the prisoner's name is read out to ensure he is the correct person, said a former prisons officer.

The offence and the prescribed punishment is read out so the prisoner can confirm it.

The punishment is also administered by a prisons officer, and not necessarily by a martial arts expert.

The officer meting out the punishment is, however, required to be fit physically.

The superintendent of the penal institution, a male nurse and a medical doctor are present throughout the caning.

Furthermore, every sentence is carried out in full in a single session and not in instalments over several days.

The prisoner is examined by a doctor both before and during caning to ensure that he is medically fit for the punishment.

After each stroke, the doctor examines the patient to see if he is fit to take the next stroke.


If the prisoner faints and is too weak to carry on with the caning, the caning will stop there and he will not be caned again.

The former prisons officer said: 'The prison will then ask the courts to convert the remaining strokes to a longer jail term.'

After the caning, the prisoner is examined by the doctor and treated. It includes the application of antiseptic solution to the wounds.

The legal limit is 24 strokes per trial. Men above 50 years old and women cannot be caned under the law.

The court also cannot mete out caning to a person sentenced to death.

Copyright © 2005 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. All rights reserved.

Corpun file 19314


The New Paper, Singapore, 2 July 2007

Mum says she'll settle for $300,000

I only want enough for my son

Govt regrets error, but says $3m demand not acceptable

By Tay Shi'an

FROM $150,000 to $3 million.

That's the big jump in compensation and damages that Madam Ho Gee Lin, 52, is demanding after her son, Dickson Tan Yong Wen, was given three extra strokes of the cane.

The mother and son raised the amount after hiring lawyer Joseph Chen Kok Siang to fight their case.

Tan, 20, was given eight strokes of the cane in prison instead of the five he was sentenced to, after a court clerk wrongly recorded the sentence on a document.

He had been sentenced to nine months' jail and five strokes of the cane for abetting an illegal moneylender to harass a debtor.

In a joint statement yesterday, the Ministry of Law and Ministry of Home Affairs said that the government regrets the error, and is ready and willing to settle the matter.

However, they said the $3m sum could not be accepted.

They also said that Tan had not told prison officers about the mistake, as he had claimed, and had verified the number of strokes on some documents.

But, when contacted by The New Paper on Sunday, Madam Ho stood by her version that her son and family had tried to notify the authorities of the error through various channels.

She also said that the family would actually settle for $300,000.

She said in Mandarin: 'If tomorrow, the Government calls me and offers $300,000, I will accept.

'If they offer less, but it's a reasonable amount, we can consider it.'

So why ask for $3m?

That's only if the Government does not offer a settlement that the family is willing to accept and the case goes to court, said Mr Chen.

The $3m demand would then include punitive damages, over and above the compensation.

Madam Ho claimed that if they were to be awarded the $3m, they would donate $2.7m to charity.

'The $300,000 is all I really want to take care of my son,' she said.

Madam Ho, who is also a claimant in the case, added that she suffered fear and could not sleep due to her son's ordeal.

She said her son had found out about the mistake on the day he entered prison, and had told his family about it.

The family claims that despite numerous attempts by both Tan and his family to correct the mistake, Tan still received eight strokes on 29 Mar, two weeks after he entered prison.

His family only found out two weeks after he was caned, during their next visit.

Said Madam Ho: 'When I first found out the mistake, I was so scared, I couldn't sleep.

'For two weeks, we didn't know who to look for, we hoped the caning would be postponed or the mistake corrected, but we weren't told the outcome. By the time we knew, he had already been caned.'

Madam Ho said that before she engaged a lawyer, she had actually written to the Prisons Department and Admiralty West Prison, where her son was caned, to ask for $150,000 compensation.

She met a lawyer from the Attorney-General's Chambers on 4 Jun, but they offered a lower amount, which she did not accept.

It was at this time that she consulted a lawyer.

Then, the family discovered 'aggravating factors' and increased their compensation demand to $300,000.

The case was referred for mediation -- but the family did not go forward with it.

Mr Chen said it was because they were told they had to pay $2,000 in mediation fees, which the family could not afford.

Since it looked as though the case was heading to court, the family, on Mr Chen's advice, increased the sum to $3m.

Mr Chen said: 'My advice to them was based on cases in other countries. If we go to court, we ask for $3m.'

The lawyer added that Tan is willing to undertake a lie-detector test over his claims that he had told prison officers of the mistake on the first day he entered prison.

Madam Ho claimed her son had put his thumb print on the documents because the same officers he had complained to were there during the caning.

'He was worried if he raised the matter again with them, he'd be punished further. He also thought that if they wanted to check, they would have done so two weeks earlier.'

Tan was released from prison on 17 May and is serving out the rest of his sentence on home detention until August.

Madam Ho said he was treated for trauma and depression by a psychiatrist and was warded at Adam Road Hospital for four days after his release.

Corpun file 19315


The New Paper, Singapore, 2 July 2007

Govt sorry for error

By Tay Shi'an

A COURT clerk's mistake is why Dickson Tan Yong Wen ended up getting the extra strokes. This was revealed in a joint statement by the Law and Home Affairs ministries yesterday.

By Tay Shi'an

A COURT clerk's mistake is why Dickson Tan Yong Wen ended up getting the extra strokes.

This was revealed in a joint statement by the Law and Home Affairs ministries yesterday.

'Unfortunately, when the warrant of commitment was prepared by the Court Officer (that is, court clerk who assisted the judge with the administrative aspects of the case), the Court Officer erroneously reflected on the warrant of commitment an additional three strokes to one of the charges,' the statement said.

Tan was found guilty of abetting an illegal moneylender. He was convicted and sentenced on 28Feb.

The statement said that prison officers followed proper procedures when administering the caning on 29 Mar this year.

This included verifying with the prisoner that the number of strokes of caning as specified in the warrant of commitment was correct.

Tan also did not raise any objection to number of strokes when he was interviewed during his admission process to prison on 1 Mar.

On the day of the caning, statement said, Tan acknowledged on the Inmate's Events Sheet that eight strokes was correct. And just before he was caned, Tan confirmed once again to the prison officers and the Medical Officer that the number of strokes were correct.

The Subordinate Courts has since taken various steps to tighten the processes. These efforts include checklists for Court Officers in preparing warrants of commitment and layers of additional checks for warrants of commitment, the statement said.

It also added that the Government regrets the error.

'The Government has also offered to refer the case to mediation. In negotiations so far, Tan's settlement sum has escalated from an initial amount of $150,000 to $3m (out of which he said he would donate $2.7m to charity), made on a without prejudice basis. This could not be accepted by the Government.'

The statement also said the court officer had resigned over the incident.

Copyright © 2005 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. All rights reserved.

Corpun file 19361


The Straits Times, Singapore, 4 July 2007


Extra caning for prisoner

Why weren't processes tightened after '88 error?

I REFER to the report, '3 extra strokes for prisoner: Govt regrets error' (ST, July 1), about 20-year-old Dickson Tan Yong Wen being erroneously given three more strokes of the cane than he was sentenced to. Three points about this incident strike me as particularly disturbing.

First, it appears that the court clerk is the only officer responsible for ensuring that the sentence is reflected accurately. Is there no oversight performed by more senior officers? If there is, why did such an error go unnoticed?

A similar incident occurred in 1988 when Mr Quek Kee Chong was caned 48 times when he should have been given only 24 strokes. Did the authorities learn from that error and tightened the processes?

Second, the joint media statement released by the Ministry of Law and Ministry of Home Affairs stated that the offender did not object to the number of strokes on several occasions (which was denied by Tan and his family).

Whatever the truth of the matter, the duty of care lies with the authorities, not the offender, to ensure that the correct punishment is administered according to the law.

Faced with the trauma of imprisonment and caning, it is understandable that a 20-year-old offender had not spotted the error on the part of the authorities.

Third, while the error was disturbing, the response by the authorities is perhaps even more so. The authorities did not offer an apology to Tan and his family but merely 'regrets the error' in the press statement. More empathy would have gone a long way.

Our legal system is perceived throughout the world as strict and even harsh -- but invariably fair and just. The rule of law has always been adhered to, but this unfortunate isolated incident has put a stain on that reputation.

I urge the authorities to treat Tan and his family in a fair and just manner.

Gerald Kok Seng Kiat
New York, USA

Copyright © 2007 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

blob Follow-up: 14 July 2007 - Cane victim's lawyer: Govt open to 'a fair settlement'

Corpun file 19354


The Straits Times, Singapore, 4 July 2007

Cellphone heist

Mastermind gets 15 years' jail, 24 strokes

By Khushwant Singh

SPARED the gallows on Monday, the mastermind of a US$823,500 (S$1.25 million) cellphone theft that left a lorry driver dead found himself yesterday with a heavy jail term and the maximum cane strokes.

Arsan Krishnasamy Govindarajoo's lawyer, Mr Subhas Anandan, tried to convince the judge that the 39-year-old second-hand goods dealer's instructions to his henchmen had gone awry. The victim, Mr Wan Cheon Kem, 46, was beaten so badly with a baseball bat that he fell into a coma and later died of head injuries.

Mr Anandan said Arsan's first question to one of his accomplices was: 'Why did you beat him so badly?'

But Justice Lee Seiu Kin was unconvinced and jailed Arsan for 15 years and ordered him to be caned 24 strokes for his role. The maximum jail term is 20 years.

Arsan was jailed for another 1½ years for selling off stolen property. A third sentence of two years' jail for concealing the stolen cellphones will run concurrently.

The attack took place in May last year. Arsan's three accomplices, charged with murder, are awaiting trial.

Although Justice Lee accepted Mr Anandan's argument that Arsan did not know his accomplices were armed with a baseball bat, the judge noted that Arsan wanted Mr Wan beaten up and rendered unconscious to prevent him from identifying them.

Arsan was still accountable as 'the court is fully conscious of the fact that to beat someone to the point of subconsciousness is potentially a dangerous thing as it's impossible to calibrate such a beating to ensure no serious injury will arise'.

'As it turned out...the innocent life of a person carrying out his duty to his employer had been snuffed out.'

Pleading for a short jail term, Mr Anandan said Arsan had no control over his three accomplices during the robbery as he was not there.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Amarjit Singh, however, portrayed Arsan as a master manipulator. 'Cunningly, he kept away from the scene of the actual robbery and assault on Mr Wan. Yet it is evident that he was the puppet master.'

Arsan, married to an administrative assistant, has a daughter and son, aged five and four.

His cousin, the only family member in court yesterday, said: 'I feel sorry for the children who will grow up without their father...'

Copyright © 2007 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

Corpun file 19412


The Straits Times, Singapore, 12 July 2007

Bogus S-League footballer jailed and caned

TALL, lean and sinewy, James Obasi, a 33-year-old Nigerian, looked every inch a professional footballer. He even carried an S-League card.

The problem was that the card was not his. It belonged to Diakite Bangaly, 22, who is from the Ivory Coast in Africa and plays for the Home Team football team of the S-League.

But what really landed Obasi in trouble was sneaking into Singapore illegally and his having punched a police officer on the head last month.

For admitting to these offences, he was on Thursday jailed two months and ordered to be given four strokes of the cane.

The charges against him for using an S-League card fraudulently and for elbowing the face of another police officer were taken into consideration by the judge during sentencing.

A district court heard that at 5pm on June 10, two police officers patrolling Kelantan Lane off Serangoon Road stopped Obasi, who pulled out the S-League card, and told them that he played for Home United.

The cops noticed he did not look like the person pictured on the card, and arrested him when he was unable to produce his passport or other documents.

The 1.8m-tall Nigerian struggled and broke free, but was caught and handcuffed after a chase.

Pleading for leniency, Obasi said he had came here only 'to work and not to hurt' anyone.

The judge ordered the S-League card to be returned to its owner. The court was not told how he got hold of it.

Copyright © 2007 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

Corpun file 19410


Today, Singapore, 14 July 2007

Cane victim's lawyer: Govt open to 'a fair settlement'

By Ansley Ng

Press cutting - Click for full size - Image will open in a new windowTHE mother of Dickson Tan Yong Wen, the 20-year-old offender who was caned three times more than the prescribed sentence, spent four hours in a closed-door mediation session with representatives from the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) on Friday.

When they emerged from the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC), both parties were tightlipped. But Tan's lawyer Joseph Chen said: "The government is amenable to a fair settlement." Deputy public prosecutor Ian Leong added that both parties are making "good progress".

Madam Ho Gee Lin had earlier asked for a $3-million-payout from the government for the error that happened after a court clerk added the extra strokes while processing her son's paperwork.

The government rejected the demand, and the mediation has been adjourned to a later date. But the clerk has resigned, and AGC officials have visited Tan to apologise.

On Feb 28, Tan was sentenced to nine months in jail and five strokes of the cane for two offences of abetting a loanshark to harass a debtor.

The caning was carried out on March 29, with prison officials verifying with Tan that the number of strokes he would receive was correct.

The government had earlier said Tan — now on home detention until next month — had three chances to object to the number of lashes he would receive but did not voice out against the discrepancy.

But Mdm Ho, 52, challenged the statement and said her son had told two prison officers about the error before the caning, adding that Tan was willing to take a lie detector test.

The housewife had initially demanded $150,000 compensation but later raised it to $300,000 as she felt authorities did not take her seriously.

Her lawyer then advised her to ask for $3 million, based on how American and British courts award punitive damages.

The case will get an airing next week in Parliament.

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.

Corpun file 19428

Channel News Asia, Singapore, 16 July 2007

CJ expresses deep concern over extra caning case: Jayakumar

By S. Ramesh
Channel NewsAsia

Law Minister S. Jayakumar
SINGAPORE: Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong has expressed deep concern over the recent case where a prisoner was mistakenly given extra strokes of the cane.

Law Minister S Jayakumar told Parliament [right] that the CJ feels such mistakes may affect Singapore's excellent reputation and standing of the judicial system.

Meanwhile, the Courts are also considering automating processes with built-in checks to ensure such errors do not recur.

Dickson Tan was charged with four counts of abetting an unlicensed moneylender to harass a debtor.

He pleaded guilty and was sentenced on 28 February to three months jail and two strokes of the cane for one charge, and six months jail and three strokes for the second charge – adding up to a total of nine months jail and five strokes of the cane.

Professor Jayakumar said: "The error occurred at the stage of transcribing the sentence from the case file onto the warrant of commitment. The warrant of commitment notifies the Prisons Department the sentence that was passed to the offender.

"When preparing the warrant, the court clerk erroneously entered the sentence for the second charge as six months imprisonment and six strokes of caning instead of three strokes, thereby giving rise to eight strokes of the cane instead of a total of five strokes. Unfortunately, the sentencing District Judge also did not spot the error when he signed off on the warrant."

Caning was administered on Tan on 29 March, but the mistake was only discovered on 2 April after an inquiry from Tan's family led to investigations.

Professor Jayakumar said: "The Chief Justice has directed that the District Judge be formally cautioned and that after he has cleared his outstanding criminal cases, he will be taken off judicial work which involves the signing of warrants of commitment."

Meanwhile, the CJ has ordered a comprehensive system of checks to prevent mistakes of this nature.

In fact, the Subordinate Courts has already taken additional checks and refined its checklist.

Warrants of commitment will now be checked twice by another court clerk who is not involved in preparing the warrant.

A second District Judge will also be involved in the checking system before the warrant is signed by the judge.

Professor Jayakumar said Singapore's Subordinate Courts deal with some 200,000 criminal cases every year and such clerical mistakes were a rare occurrence.

He said: "But as I have said publicly, even if these mistakes are rare, one case is one case too many. We have to put it right and ensure it does not recur."

Nevertheless, the law minister said, Singapore's hard-won legal and judicial reputation must be upheld and strengthened.

Professor Jayakumar added that mediation talks with Tan's family are confidential and have been adjourned for both sides to reflect on what has been discussed.

- CNA/so

Copyright © MCN International Pte Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Corpun file 19429


Today, Singapore, 17 July 2007

Caning mistake: Judge punished

By Loh Chee Kong

Press cutting THE District Judge who signed off the paperwork — which led to a prisoner wrongly receiving three extra strokes of the cane — will be "formally cautioned" and suspended from judicial duties.

The judge in question was not identified by Law Minister S Jayakumar when he addressed Parliament yesterday on the error and the measures that are being taken to prevent a repeat of such a mistake.

When contacted by Today, the Subordinate Courts did not want to reveal the identity of the judge involved in the lapse.

Neither would the courts elaborate on the details of the censure against him.

It was District Judge Kow Keng Siong, who presided over the case. He was appointed to the bench in 1999, six years after becoming a Deputy Public Prosecutor.

Traditionally the judge, who presides over the case, would also be the sentencing judge, who signs off on the punishment.

The controversy surrounds Dickson Tan Yong Wen, 20, who was sentenced to nine months in jail and five strokes of the cane for two offences involving abetting an illegal moneylender to harass a debtor.

However, a court clerk, who has since resigned, erroneously added three extra strokes to the caning as he prepared the paperwork informing the prison authorities of the punishment to be meted out.

Addressing Parliament Prof Jayakumar, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, said: "Unfortunately, the sentencing District Judge also did not spot the error when he signed off on the warrant."

He added: "The Chief Justice has directed that the District Judge be formally cautioned and that after he has cleared his outstanding criminal cases, he will be taken off judicial work which involves the signing of warrants of commitment."

Apart from judicial duties, District Judges have additional responsibilities, serving as deputy registrars, coroners and referees of the Small Claims Tribunal.

Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, who helms the judiciary, has also directed a review of all administrative procedures within the courts.

He has asked the courts to work with the Attorney-General's Chambers, the prison authorities and the police to set up "a comprehensive system of checks" to prevent the repeat of such a mistake.

Several other new measures are already in place as the courts looks into computerising the warrant preparation process, said Prof Jayakumar.

For example, another court clerk, who was not involved in preparing the warrant, would double-check its contents. A second District Judge would also check it before it is signed by the sentencing judge.

Responding to a question from Non-Constituency MP Sylvia Lim, Prof Jayakumar also rebutted an allegation by Tan's family that prison officers had stopped Tan from writing to his family right after the caning, to inform them of the mistake.

Added Prof Jayakumar: "It's very clear that there's no truth in this allegation. No letters were prevented from reaching the recipients intended by Mr Dickson Tan."

Tan's family is seeking compensation from the Government and mediation talks are ongoing.

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.

blob Follow-up: 20 December 2007 - Are these ex-cons jumping on the bandwagon to get a big pay-off?

Corpun file 19447


The Straits Times, Singapore, 17 July 2007

Jail, caning for man who molested girl, 5

Accused suffering from depression but judge felt the case called for deterrent sentence

By Elena Chong
Court Correspondent

Lim Hock Keng
CAUGHT: Lim Hock Keng molested the victim at Suntec City Mall. -- ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

A MAN who lured a five-year-old girl away from a supermarket and molested her in a stairwell was yesterday sentenced to three years in jail and six strokes of the cane.

Lim Hock Keng, 32, pleaded guilty to the offences, committed at Suntec City Mall after 7pm on March 10.

The girl had been left in her 10-year-old brother's care at the hypermarket's toy section, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Adeline Ee.

Lim observed her for a while and realised she was by herself. He asked her where her parents were, and when she said she did not know, he carried her out of the store.

He took her to a food court on the third level, the Toys R Us store and a playground -- but made no attempt to contact her parents, said DPP Ee.

He then led the child to a secluded stairwell and molested her, making her shout out in pain.

She had become quite upset by then, so Lim took her to the first level and handed her over to a customer service officer at an information and reception counter.

Lim claimed that she appeared to be lost and that he had found her nearby -- but when asked for his particulars, he hurried away.

The girl, upset and in tears, gave the customer service officer her father's name and cellphone number.

As soon as her parents rushed to her side, the victim -- crying loudly -- told her mother what had happened.

She was taken to KK Women's and Children's Hospital where she was found to have a 5cm abrasion on an inner thigh and a 3mm abrasion on her hymen.

Lim was arrested two days later.

It was not mentioned in court how he was tracked down, but it is believed that images from closed-circuit television cameras helped police get to him.

On March 13, his Yishun flat was raided and several obscene films were found there -- for which he was yesterday fined $3,000.

Defence counsel Irving Choh said Lim suffers from depression and has limited intellect, but both the prosecutor and judge felt the case called for a deterrent sentence.

Pointing out that the incident had left a deep psychological scar on the victim, DPP Ee said: 'In this case, the kidnap was motivated solely by the accused's lust.'

District Judge Victor Yeo said that Lim's psychiatric disorder, depression or stress were not factors the court could give weight to.

He said: 'The mitigating factors as highlighted by his learned counsel are clearly outweighed by the gravity of these offences and the strong public interest considerations present in this case.

'In this regard, this court must send a strong message to express its abhorrence and disgust of the crimes committed by the accused, and that such offences would not be condoned nor tolerated.'

Lim, earlier diagnosed by government and private psychiatrists as suffering from depression, could have been jailed for a maximum of two years, fined up to $10,000 or caned up to 12 strokes for outrage of modesty.

For kidnapping, he could have been given up to 10 years in jail and fined up to $10,000 or caned.

Copyright © 2007 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd.

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