Public Prosecutor v Quah Siew Hong

JudgePrem Raj Prabakaran
Judgment Date20 March 2020
Neutral Citation[2020] SGDC 66
CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
Docket NumberDistrict Arrest Case Nos 904515-904519 of 2018
Published date31 March 2020
Hearing Date15 January 2019,29 August 2018,16 October 2018,11 October 2018,31 May 2019,10 October 2018,15 October 2018,12 November 2018,16 January 2019,28 August 2018,14 January 2019,31 July 2019
Plaintiff CounselStephanie Chew Xizhi and Ben Mathias Tan (Attorney-General's Chambers)
Defendant CounselMervyn Cheong Jun Ming and Elizabeth Chua (M/s Advocatus Law LLP)
Citation[2020] SGDC 66
District Judge Prem Raj Prabakaran: Introduction

Quah Siew Hong @ Mabel was employed as a “Manager” of CHIN LIN BUS SERVICE (PTE) LTD (“the Company”) for more than 14 years, from 2 May 2000 to 25 August 2014.1 The Company was a very small one. It comprised only Quah and four directors (one of whom died in October 20132).

The Company was in the business of supplying diesel to transport operators. Its customers first had to pay a deposit.3 In return, they received a chip4 and a code number for each of their vehicles. Their drivers would then use these to operate the diesel pumps on the Company’s premises.5 Details about a customer’s diesel consumption would be recorded for billing purposes whenever their drivers refuelled.6

As “Manager”, Quah collected payments from these customers on the Company’s behalf. Customers would pay by way of cheques issued to the Company, cash cheques, or in cash.7 Quah was also in charge of the Company’s accounts. Indeed, the evidence showed that she was the only one in the Company who knew how to use its accounting system/software (or “ACCPAC”). Quah used ACCPAC to record the Company’s transactions with its customers, and to prepare its accounting records.

Quah claimed trial to five charges for criminal breach of trust by a servant, an offence under s 408 of the Penal Code.8 The offences were purportedly committed over almost five years: between 24 July 2009 and 30 June 2014 (“the offending period”). The property allegedly misappropriated comprised payments she had collected from six of the Company’s customers.9 These had all been made in cash or by way of cash cheques. In all, the Prosecution alleged 168 distinct instances of misappropriation of various cash cheques and sums of cash – totalling almost $920,000. Each charge encompassed the instances of alleged misappropriation over different segments of the offending period (that did not exceed 12 months). The gross sums allegedly misappropriated differed across the charges. A sample of one of these charges read as follows:

…that you, [purported offending period that did not exceed 12 months], at No 7, Old Toh Tuck Road, Singapore, being employed as a servant by [the Company], to wit, a Manager, and in such capacity being entrusted with property, to wit, a sum of [alleged gross sum misappropriated], did commit criminal breach of trust by dishonestly misappropriating the said property, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 408 of the Penal Code…

The distinguishing particulars in the five charges were as follows:

DAC No. Period of offending Sum misappropriated
904515-2018 Between 24 July 2009 and 23 July 2010 $174,166.12
904516-2018 Between 24 July 2010 and 23 July 2011 $169,974.6010
904517-2018 Between 24 July 2011 and 23 July 2012 $221,172.91
904518-2018 Between 24 July 2012 and 23 July 2013 $127,104.4011
904519-2018 Between 24 July 2013 and 30 June 2014 $227,403.6612
Total sum misappropriated $919,821.69

Quah did not dispute that she was “employed as a servant” by the Company during the offending period. She also admitted that she had collected the full sum stated in all the charges – which belonged to the Company13 – as part of her duties as “Manager” (collectively, “the Entrusted Monies”).14 She therefore accepted that she was entrusted with the Entrusted Monies in the capacity of a servant. In addition, she agreed that she did not bank any of the Entrusted Monies into the Company’s bank account (“the Company’s Account”).15 Indeed, the unchallenged evidence showed that Quah: deposited the large majority of the cash cheques that she collected into her three personal bank accounts (of which two were lines of credit); and deposited some of the cash cheques she collected into: her mother’s bank account16, which she maintained17; and a joint account she held with her nephew.18

However, Quah denied dishonestly misappropriating any of the Entrusted Monies. Instead, she claimed that she handed all of the Entrusted Monies to one of the Company’s directors – Tan Song Mong (“TSM”). It was her case that TSM had instructed her to do so, and she was merely complying with his directions during the offending period.19 TSM denied these allegations vigorously.20 The key issue was thus whether Quah had dishonestly misappropriated the Entrusted Monies.

I convicted Quah on all five charges, following a 10-day trial. Having observed the witnesses as they testified, I found the witnesses called by the Prosecution – which included TSM and the remaining two directors of the Company – candid and truthful. They all testified in a straightforward manner. Quah was, however, an evasive and inconsistent witness. Key aspects of her testimony were either contradicted or unsupported by other evidence. Her defence also constantly changed (even between days of trial) whenever she was confronted with contrary evidence. She was not at all averse to raising a multitude of fresh claims/allegations during her cross-examination, to try to explain away the glaring discrepancies in her case. She struck me as a distinctly unreliable and untruthful witness. She failed to either satisfactorily account for the Entrusted Monies (that she admitted she was entrusted with, and for which she was accountable) or offer any plausible explanation for their loss. Indeed, the evidence showed that she also unilaterally manipulated the Company’s accounting records (which she solely prepared) on ACCPAC (which only she could access) to hide her dishonest misappropriation of the Entrusted Monies.

I then sentenced Quah as follows:

DAC No. Sum misappropriated Imprisonment term Remarks
904515-2018 $174,166.12 27 months Consecutive
904516-2018 $169,974.60 27 months Concurrent
904517-2018 $221,172.91 30 months Concurrent
904518-2018 $127,104.40 24 months Consecutive
904519-2018 $227,403.66 30 months Consecutive
Total sentence 81 months’ imprisonment

Quah appealed her convictions and sentences. The execution of these sentences has been stayed, pending the hearing of her appeals. These are my grounds of decision.

Agreed & undisputed facts

The facts agreed between the parties are set out in this section.21 Those not disputed during the course of the trial are included as well.

A small company with only 4/5 employees

The Company had between three and four directors during the offending period. They were also its shareholders.22 Three directors testified for the Prosecution: Lim Eng Chuan (“LEC”); Neo Eng Seng (“NES”); and TSM (collectively, “the Directors”). The Company’s fourth director, Ong Bock Chay, died in October 2013. The Directors all testified in Mandarin, through an interpreter. They were all also rather elderly. Their highest education level ranged from Primary 3 to Secondary 3 (only).

LEC and NEC did not know how to turn on a computer. They also did not know how to use ACCPAC, the accounting system/software that Quah used to record the Company’s transactions and to prepare its accounting records.23 Quah had used ACCPAC since she joined the Company in 2000.

Unlike the Directors, Quah’s highest level of education was the GCE “A” Level. She was hence the Company’s best educated employee. She also testified in Mandarin. But, she agreed during the trial that her level of proficiency in the English language – in terms of reading; writing; and speaking – was far higher than that of the Directors.24 I set out some details about the composition of the Company in the table below:

Name Age25 Highest education level Remarks
Quah 65 GCE “A” Level ·Most proficient in English language ·Computer/ACCPAC literate
NES 73 Secondary 3 ·Very limited proficiency in English language ·Computer/ACCPAC illiterate
LEC 76 Primary 5
TSM 79 Primary 3 ·Very limited proficiency in English language ·See also [107]-[110] below

Quah was the only person in the Company who gave LEC and NEC documents to sign in the course of their work.26

Directors never borrowed money from Company

The Directors never borrowed money from the Company.27

TSM lent Company money to pay diesel supplier

LEC and NES never lent money to the Company. However, they knew that TSM did so. TSM had been lending money (without interest) to the Company for many years.28 The sums he lent the Company each time ranged from $20,000 to $40,000. His loans were a recurring practice, to tide the Company over financial difficulties. He would lend money to the Company for it to pay its diesel supplier whenever Quah informed him that the Company had yet to receive payment from its customers (which it would have ordinarily used to pay its supplier). TSM did not record the sums he lent to the Company. LEC and NES also did not keep records.29 The sums that TSM lent to the Company were returned to him whenever payment was received from its customers.

Company never cancelled/voided concluded sales transactions

Throughout the course of its operations, the Company never cancelled or voided a concluded sales transaction with any of its customers. It therefore never had to give any of its customers a refund of the monies they had already paid to the Company. In any event, it was also not possible for a customer to return any diesel to the Company (and seek a refund) once it had been pumped into a vehicle.30


SINCL PTE LTD (“SINCL”) and the Company shared office premises (“the Office”). The Directors were also its directors. SINCL dealt with vehicle insurance coverage. Ong Sueh Peng (“Fion”) handled SINCL’s accounts.31

In the course of her work at SINCL, Fion would...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT