Public Prosecutor v Lim Meng Hai

CourtMagistrates' Court (Singapore)
JudgeAdam Nakhoda
Judgment Date20 February 2001
Neutral Citation[2001] SGMC 8
Citation[2001] SGMC 8
Publication Date19 September 2003

JUDGMENT:

Grounds of Decision

THE CHARGE

1. The accused Lim Meng Hai claimed trial to the following charge, marked P1;

"You,

LIM MENG HAI, MALE 45 YEARS
NRIC: S 0211716-I
DOB: 27 JULY 1954

"are charged that you, on or about the 13th day of February 1999, at or about 3.50 p.m., in Singapore, did act a bookmaker, by receiving bets from one Tan Chiang Seng through your mobile phone, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 5(3)(a) of the Betting Act, Chapter 21.

2. After a two-day trial, I found that the accused was innocent of the charge and I accordingly acquitted him.

AGREED FACTS

3. Ms. Christine Foo Meng Tit (PW1) (hereinafter "Ms. Christine Foo), an employee with the Singapore Turf Club said that the 13th of February 1999 was a race day at the Singapore Turf Club. The Selangor Tunku Gold Cup meeting was being run. She tendered P2, which is the result of the races run on the 13th of February. There were altogether nine races run on the 13th.

4. Ms. Christine Foo confirmed that there are six off-course betting centers in Singapore. Amongst these six are the center at the National Stadium and the center at McCallum Street. She said as the center at the National Stadium had a "live" telecast of the races a punter would be obliged to purchase a $5.00 ticket in order to enter the center. If the punter were to exit the center and subsequently wanted to return he would have to buy another ticket. Ms. Christine Foo further said that there were no handphones allowed on the premises of the center at the National Stadium on race days. She said that there was no charge for entering the McCallum Street center because there was no "live" telecast of the races.

5. Sergeant Steven Wee (PW3) (hereinafter "Sgt. Wee") said that at the McCallum Street center the announcement of the results of the horse races was delayed, and that the results would only be known after two further races had been run.

6. David Tan Chiang Seng (PW2) (hereinafter "David Tan") pleaded guilty and was convicted on the 6th of October 2000 for an offence of betting with a bookmaker under section 5(1) of the Betting Act and for an offence of having a radio communication device under section 71(1)(h) of the Telecommunications Act. He was fined $1,000 for both offences respectively. It is also not in contention that David Tan was arrested, along with five other, on the 13th of February 1999 at Block 412, Bedok North Avenue 2 outside unit #01-114. David Tan agreed that he was in possession; of a handphone with the telephone number 97371929 (P5), a cloned "TENPIN" pager (P6) (hereinafter "the pager") and part of a Salem cigarette carton with his writings on the reverse side (P7) (hereinafter "the Salem carton).

7. The defence did not object to the Prosecution tendering a copy of the accused's and of David Tan's mobile telephone calls details. These documents were marked P3 and P4 respectively. The relevant entries are for calls between their respective handphones on the 13th of February 1999.

THE PROSECUTION'S CASE

8. The primary contention for the case Prosecution is that the accused was acting as a bookmaker and that he was accepting bets from David Tan. The Prosecution rely primarily on the testimony of David Tan who says that he was collecting bets and passing them on to the accused who was acting as a bookmaker.

9. The Prosecution also rely on the evidence of Sergeant Steven Wee (PW3) (hereinafter "Sgt. Wee"), who is an officer attached to the Gambling Suppression Branch of the CID.

A. Evidence of David Tan Chiang Seng (PW2)

10. David Tan claims that he was an odd-job labourer at the time of his arrest. He said that he got to know the accused a few months before the incident on the 13th of February 1999. He says that he was introduced to the accused through one Ow Kok Heng Joseph (hereinafter "Joseph Ow"), a person he had got to know earlier. David Tan does not recall exactly the time, date or location of his first meeting with the accused. He says that Joseph Ow came to know that he was a punter, and subsequently David Tan asked Joseph Ow if he could introduce a bookmaker. After this Joseph Ow introduced David Tan to the accused.

11. He says that he was at the coffeeshop at Block 412 Bedok North Avenue 2 on the 13th of February because he had met some friends for a drinking session. During this session he and some of his friends formed the intention to bet on horses. David Tan recorded the bets that his friends at the table wanted to place on the Salem box and he would then, using his handphone or sometimes his friends handphone, place the bets with the accused. He said that he would call the accused in order to place the bets.

12. David Tan said that he contacted the accused at around "one something" in the afternoon to place his bets for Race no. 1. He said that he placed bets, of his own, with the accused for the following races;

Race no.1, horse no. 2, twenty win and twenty place tickets.

Race no. 1, horse no. 7, forty win and forty place tickets.

Race no. 2, horse no. 3, eighty win and eighty place tickets.

Race no. 3, horse no. 1, forty win and forty place tickets.

Race no. 3, horse no. 2, ten win and ten place tickets.

Race no. 3, horse no. 4, one hundred win and one hundred place tickets.

Race no. 4, horse no. 1, fifty win and fifty place tickets.

Race no. 4, horse no. 4, twenty win and twenty place tickets.

Race no. 4, horse no. 8, twenty win and twenty place tickets.

13. David Tan said that he would have to pay $4.20 for each ticket. He also said that the record of his bets was under the extreme left hand column on the Salem carton. The other columns in the Salem carton represent the bets that he recorded on behalf of his friends and that he placed with the accused.

14. At the time that he was arrested, David Tan says that four races had been run.

B. Evidence of Sergeant Steven Wee (PW3)

15. Sgt. Wee's is a Gambling expert with Gambling Suppression Branch of the CID. His evidence in support of the charge against the accused is found in his statement PS1 specifically at paragraph 7 which states;

"7. After examined the fact of case and the exhibits seized, I am of the opinion that any person found in connection or in possession of item 2(c) a torn "Salem" cigarette with entries is or are loitering at the said place for the purpose of bookmaking. Also, any person found in connection or possession with the pager which emitted commentaries on horse racing, fluctuation dividends is or are loitering at the said place for the purpose of betting/wagering."

16. Sgt. Wee explained the operation of the pager, P6, which was found in the possession of David Tan. He said that the pager emitted numerical codes that would allow either punters or bookmakers to carry out illegal bookmaking or punting activities. He said that the pager would emit the fluctuating dividends, the conditions of the track, tips, it would provide a running commentary on the race and show the positions of the first three horses and the dividends. Sgt. Wee explained that these pagers were usually rented from a syndicate for $40 to $50.

C. The telephone calls

17. The Prosecution would say that P3 and P4 provide further evidence to support their contention that the accused was the bookmaker and David Tan a punter or his assistant. All the calls between the accused and David Tan are calls made by David Tan to the accused. The Prosecution would say this gives weight to their contention that the accused was acting as a bookmaker because he was accepting bets passed on by David Tan.

CLOSE OF PROSECUTION CASE

18. The Learned Defence Counsel opted not to make any submissions of no case to answer. However, I assessed whether there was sufficient evidence of every element of the charge that was not inherently incredible so as compel me to call on the accused to enter his defence.

19. I found that the evidence of Sgt. Wee and his report PS1 did not go towards supporting the charge against the accused. Sgt. Wees opinion as contained in PS1 was obtained from his analysis of, inter alia, the pager and the Salem carton. Sgt. Wee opined that the Salem carton contained a record of bets made in connection with illegal horse racing activities and anyone found connected or in possession of the Salem carton would be "loitering at the said place for the purpose of bookmaking". However, the section 15 and 8(1) presumptions that would arise out of a persons connection to the Salem carton cannot be used against the accused. This is because the accused does not have any "connection" to the Salem carton. There is no evidence that he had ever seen the Salem carton prior to the date of the trial.

20. Therefore, the Prosecutions evidence rests solely on David Tans evidence that on the 13th of February 1999 he made several calls to the accuseds handphone and placed his own and his friends bets on horse races that were to be run later that same afternoon. I found that the only presumptions that was invoked, based on the evidence adduced, is the first limb of the presumption in section 8(1) of the Betting Act, which states;

8.(1) Any person accepting or receiving bets, stakes or wagers or found in possession of any books, accounts, documents, telegrams, writings, circulars, cards or other articles which are used or appear to have been used or intended to be used in connection with or which relate or appear to relate to the business of a bookmaker shall be presumed until the contrary is proved to be acting as a bookmaker

(Emphasis mine).

21. In all the unreported judgements that I perused prior to coming to my decision whenever the first limb of the presumption in section 8(1) was invoked there would invariably be observation by a Prosecution witness of the accused taking cash from others. However, I would say that there is no requirement for the Prosecution to produce evidence of the accused physically receiving money. I believe the...

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