SINGAPORE: A man claimed he had helped his boss pay his traffic fines in court, handing his boss a forged payment slip with the State Courts logo on it as proof.
In reality, he had gone to court for his own case and a warrant of arrest was later issued for his boss, who was a no-show.
Chua Chee Siang, 42, claimed trial to one count of using a forged document as genuine in a case the prosecution called “ridiculous”. He was convicted last month and sentenced on Tuesday (Sep 20) to two months’ jail.
According to court documents, Chua was working as an administrator for Mr Heng Cheng Hock, the director of A-TEC Motorz at the time of the offence.
In February 2019, Mr Heng was charged in the State Courts in his capacity as director of A-TEC Motorz for various traffic offences. He directed Chua to handle the matter and ensure that the fines for the charges were paid.
However, Chua did not settle the case with the Land Transport Authority (LTA). A warrant of arrest was issued for Mr Heng when he did not show up for his court case, and when Mr Heng learned of this, he demanded documentary proof from Chua that the case had been settled.
On May 10 2019, Chua handed Mr Heng a payment advice chit dated Apr 16, 2019. The document contained the logo of the State Courts and stated that a court fine of S$300 imposed by Court 25 had been paid.
BOSS WENT TO COURT WITH THE FAKE SLIP
Mr Heng went to court on May 28, 2019 and presented the document Chua had handed him. However, discrepancies were noted in the slip and investigations were mounted. The document was found to be forged.
At trial, Chua claimed that he had gone to court on Apr 16, 2019, to plead guilty on behalf of his boss and pay the fine of S$300 imposed by the court.
“Curiously, the accused has persistently maintained this claim, from the outset when his police statements were recorded, all the way till the end of trial,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor Melina Chew.
This was despite the fact that it was not possible for Chua to plead guilty on behalf of his boss. Even though his boss was mistaken in directing Chua to attend court on his behalf, if Chua did go to court to represent Mr Heng, the court would have refused to accept the plea and asked Mr Heng to attend court himself.
Second, it is not possible for the court to sentence an offender when a warrant of arrest is active against them. A warrant of arrest was issued against Mr Heng on Mar 5, 2019 because he had not attended his case. This means there was no fine levied by the court for Mr Heng.
Mr Heng later paid a composition sum of S$250 for his charges and was granted a discharge amounting to an acquittal by LTA.
The State Courts’ internal finance management system showed that the payment reference number on the forged payment chit Chua obtained was for a case involving another man, where a fine of S$700 was imposed by Court 14.
At the time, the courts did not issue payment advice chits or any documentary proof of payment of fines for LTA cases. The courts did not have any arrangement with LTA to collect fine payments by offenders on LTA’s behalf.
“Further, a payment advice chit only serves to advise an offender on the fine amount which they are supposed to pay and does not serve as proof of payment of a fine,” said the prosecutor.
She said that Chua did go to court on Apr 16, 2019, but it was for his own LTA case.
“For exact reasons that would remain only known to the accused, the accused decided to lie to (Mr) Heng and tell him that his LTA case had been settled, when in fact it was not and there was an active warrant to arrest for (Mr) Heng,” said Ms Chew.
She quoted Chua’s claim that “the amount of S$300 … to do such a thing is definitely ridiculous”.
“The evidence presented before this honourable court, however, leads to the inevitable conclusion that the accused did do the ‘ridiculous’,” she said.
She said the nature of the forgery showed that the chit could not have been issued due to an oversight or administrative error and slammed the underlying suggestions that an officer of the State Courts would have engaged in forgery.
Ms Chew had asked for about three months’ jail, noting Chua’s lack of remorse as evident from his “fanciful defence”.
He was allowed to defer his sentence to October.
For using a forged document as genuine, he could have been jailed for up to four years, fined, or both.