SINGAPORE, Nov 24 — A 31-year-old police officer was jailed for 20 weeks for forging his brother’s particulars. He did it so that he could apply for credit cards and personal bank loans to pay off debts incurred for his wife’s emergency Caesarean section.
Muhammad Aqib Mohammad Akhtar pleaded guilty yesterday (November 23) to a charge each for forgery and obstructing the course of justice.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Tay Zhi Jie told the court that Aqib had been with the Singapore Police Force for about nine years at the time that his offending began in February last year. That was when he ran into financial trouble.
Aqib’s defence lawyer, SS Dhillon from law firm Dhillon & Panoo LLC said that his client has since been suspended from the police force, where he held the rank of staff sergeant.
DPP Tay said that Aqib had incurred about S$16,000 (RM49,185) in hospital bills because his wife needed to undergo an emergency Caesarean section to give birth to their baby.
His wife was also under the Debt Repayment Scheme — an alternative to declaring bankruptcy — and had to repay her creditors S$1,000 a month.
Aqib paid for about half of the hospital bills by credit card, but was still worried about his expenses because he was investigated for “financial embarrassment”.
Financial embarrassment is when a public servant possesses more than three months of unsecured debts and liabilities at any time, are undischarged bankrupts or have signed a promissory note or an acknowledgement of indebtedness.
Due to the investigations, Aqib decided to apply for credit cards and personal bank loans under the name of his brother, Muhammad Aqil, to repay his credit card debt.
To do that, Aqib used a smartphone application that allows the user to edit portable document format (PDF) files.
Around May 5 last year, he downloaded his Notice of Assessment, a tax bill from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, for the Year of Assessment 2019.
Using the mobile application, Aqib altered the tax document to reflect his brother’s personal details.
Aqib also needed photographs of his brother’s identity card to support the credit card application that he was making with OCBC bank. He was able to get the images because his brother needed help applying for a job as a GrabFood delivery rider.
Aqib lied to his sibling that he would use the photographs to help him apply for the job.
Apart from altering the tax document, Aqib also forged a Central Provident Fund statement and payslips purportedly from Singapore Airlines to Aqil, DPP Tay said.
These documents were then used between May 5 and 12 to make four applications for credit cards or loans at four other banks: United Overseas Bank, CIMB, Citibank and Standard Chartered Bank.
OCBC was able to uncover Aqib’s forgery attempt because Aqil’s address did not match the tax document records and a police report was filed by an employee of the bank.
Aqib’s application for credit card and loans at the other banks were not approved.
Around June 4 that year, officers from the Commercial Affairs Department wanted to investigate Aqil in relation to the report made by OCBC.
Having learned of this, Aqib deleted incriminating documents that would have linked him to the credit card and loan applications.
These documents were later recovered by the police through forensic extraction when they seized his smartphone during investigations.
In his mitigation plea, Dhillon said that Aqib’s main intention for applying for the loans and credit cards in his brother’s name was to pay for his wife’s medical bills and “not for frivolous reasons like gambling”.
“Aqib’s attempt to solve his financial problems is akin to a drowning man clutching at the last straw,” the lawyer added.
Being a man of the law, Dhillon said that Aqib is fully aware of the consequences of his actions, though he wished that he had exercised “extreme prudence” and sought other means of financial assistance.
“It was truly a momentary lapse of judgement,” Dhillon said.
“Aqib’s greatest punishment will be that he will be dismissed from the Singapore Police Force, which he loves dearly.”
For forgery, Aqib could have been jailed for up to four years or fined, or both.
For obstructing the course of justice, Aqib could have been jailed for up to seven years or fined, or both. ― TODAY