Public Prosecutor v Tan Hua Mee

CourtMagistrates' Court (Singapore)
JudgeAlvin Koh Meng Sing
Judgment Date05 May 2003
Neutral Citation[2003] SGMC 15
Citation[2003] SGMC 15
Publication Date01 October 2009
Plaintiff CounselInspector Richard Lim
Defendant CounselTan Kay Bin (Tan Kay Bin & Co)

1 The Accused, Tan Hua Mee ("Tan") claimed trial to the following charge:

You, Tan Hua Mee, M/59 years, are charged that you, on the 10th day of November 2001, at about 3.15pm, outside No. 15 Stadium Road #01–00, Singapore, to which the public has access did loiter for the purpose of bookmaking and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under section 5(3)(b) of the Betting Act (Chapter 21).

2 At the end of the trial, I convicted Tan and sentenced him to three months’ imprisonment and a fine of $40,000, in default 4 months’ imprisonment. Tan has appealed against conviction and sentence.

The Case For The Prosecution

3 The prosecution called a total of five witnesses to the stand; including two punters who had placed bets with Tan and a Gambling Suppression Branch ("GSB") expert.

Testimony of PW1 – SSgt Leong Shee Chun (‘SSgt Leong’)

4 On 10 November 2001, SSgt Leong went to No. 15 Stadium Road at 3.15pm with a team of police officers. They spotted Tan at the carpark about 20m from the Betting Centre behaving suspiciously. No one approached him. SSgt Leong detained Tan and a search yielded a number of items, including two pieces of paper with written entries ("P2"), three pieces of newspapers with a published race column ("P3"), one gold pen ("P4") and a Nokia handphone ("P6"). Subsequent investigations on the four sets of numbers written on P2 revealed that they were handphone numbers registered under the names of Ho Boon Yan, Kang Choon Kuay and Tay Chee San.

Testimony of PW2 – Ms Foo Meng Tit (‘Ms Foo’)

5 Ms Foo works as an operations assistant at the Singapore Turf Club. She testified that the Selangor Meeting was held on 10 November 2001 between 1.30pm and 5pm. She tendered a copy of the Singapore Turf Club race results for the Selangor Meeting ("P8") which provided details of the scheduled and actual time of the races as well as the dividend payouts for the win and place horses.

Testimony of PW3 – Mr Ho Boh Choon (‘Ho Boh Choon’)

6 Ho Boh Choon is the older brother of PW4, Ho Boon Yan. He came to know Tan about ten years ago but they were never on close social terms.

7 Ho Boh Choon had been betting on horses, often illegally, on a weekly basis for the last 20 to 30 years. A few months before 10 November 2001, Ho Boh Choon met Tan and in the ensuing conversation, told him that he was winning money at horse betting. Tan invited him to place bets with him. Eventually, Ho Boh Choon did so. For each race, he would usually bet on one or two horses and sometimes up to the maximum of three horses, in bets ranging from $82 to $164 at an illegal rate of $4.10. Settlement usually took place on the Monday following the weekend’s races through Ho Boon Yan. Ho Boh Choon’s share often involved about $300-$400 and he paid either by cash or cheque. When he won, Ho Boon Yan would collect the winnings from Tan. On the whole, Ho Boh Choon won more often than he lost. During these times, Tan always honoured his bets and there were never any disputes.

8 On the afternoon of 10 November 2001, Ho Boh Choon was with Ho Boon Yan at his house at Silat Avenue. Ho Boh Choon used his handphone (HP no.: 98582329) and his unlisted telephone number at home to call Tan’s handphone to place bets with him for races 1–3 for that afternoon. He disagreed that there was ever any arrangement for him and Ho Boon Yan to place bets on Tan’s behalf with a third party.

Testimony of PW4 – Mr Ho Boon Yan (‘Ho Boon Yan’)

9 Ho Boon Yan is the younger brother of PW3, Ho Boh Choon. He testified that he continued to be good friends with Tan. In the past, both men had planned a business venture in China and Ho Boon Yan advanced $10,000 to Tan. When this venture failed to materialise, Tan claimed to be in financial difficulties and did not repay him. Ho Boon Yan however denied demanding payment from Tan nor charging interest on what he considered was more of an advancement than a loan. Apart from this, Ho Boon Yan had also previously loaned Tan a few thousand dollars. In any case, on 10 November 2001, Tan was only indebted to Ho Boon Yan in the amount of $10,000.

10 Ho Boon Yan had known Tan for about ten years. He testified that he placed bets on horses with him on a number of occasions in the one year prior to Tan’s arrest. Each time, he placed bets of over $100 at the rate of $4.10.

11 On the afternoon of 10 November 2001, Ho Boon Yan went to Ho Boh Choon’s house at Silat Avenue to visit his mother. Using both his handphone and the house telephone, he placed bets on seven or eight horses with Tan involving the first four races. As per the usual practice, the rate was $4.10 and settlement would take place on the following Monday. He testified that he also helped Ho Boh Choon place bets with Tan.

12 Ho Boon Yan disagreed that Tan had called him at 1.28pm to find out which horses he had helped Tan bet on. Rather, Tan had called him for the purpose of confirming what were the horse numbers he had betted on with Tan. Such confirmation of bets was a usual practice so as to minimise disputes between bookmaker and punter. When he called Tan, it was through the unlisted line in the house (No. 2760671), and his handphone. Often, this would be done five or ten minutes before the race in question was due to begin in the course of the preceding race. Notwithstanding that Tan continued to owe him money, he was confident that Tan would honour his winnings and settlement had always taken place on the Monday following the races. Ho Boon Yan denied ever telling Tan that since he was making money on horse racing and if Tan followed his bets, he would make money too. He also rejected the contention that because of Tan’s continued indebtedness to him, he had enticed Tan to allow him to bet on his behalf to reduce the outstanding debt.

Testimony of PW5 – SSgt Kuek Hock Soon (‘SSgt Kuek’)

13 SSgt Kuek is trained to analyse illegal gaming and horse-betting exhibits and is familiar with the modus operandi and the methodology of illegal horse betting. At the time of the trial, he had served in the GSB for 1½ years in his 12 year career with the police and had previously testified in court on two or three different occasions where his evidence had been accepted.

14 After examining the seized exhibits and the arrest report, SSgt Kuek prepared P9. In this report, it was stated that the written entries found on P2 pg. 1 were horse tips relating to the Selangor Meeting and the Singapore Meeting held on 10 November 2001. Pg. 2 of P2 contained records of bets in connection with illegal horse betting activities. The total amount of bets recorded were 900 ‘win’ and ‘place’ tickets valued at approximately $3,780 at an illegal rate of $4.20 per ticket. These recorded bets corresponded with the Selangor Meeting that was held on the afternoon of 10 November 2001.

Written Entries

15 SSgt Kuek explained the meaning and the significance of each of the entries found in P2. With the exception of the telephone numbers on the top left hand corner, the entries in P2 pg. 1 referred to horse tips. The entries for the eight races on the left hand lower portion referred to the Selangor races while the nine races on the right hand side referred to the Singapore races. SSgt Kuek informed the court that bookmakers are interested in horse tips to enable them to protect against accepting substantial amounts of bets in respect of certain favourite horses. There were varying numbers of favourites listed in P2 pg. 1 because not all races would have the same number of horses tipped as favourites to win, for instance, in race 4 where the horses were roughly of the same standard, there was no clear favourite.

16 SSgt Kuek explained his interpretation of the entries found on P2 pg. 2. Firstly, the encircled numbers all referred to the race numbers of the Selangor Meeting. The first row of single or double digit numbers appearing after that denoted the horse numbers. The numbers appearing immediately thereafter recorded the bets placed: for example, for race 1: there were bets of 10 tickets on horse 1, as well as either horse 5 or 7; the entry was unclear. For race 2, the final bets were as follows: horse 1: 50 tickets, horse 5: 60 tickets, horse 6: 40 tickets, horse 9: 20 tickets and horse 12: 20 tickets. For race 3, the bets were as follows: horse 3: 10 tickets and horse 10: 50 tickets. For race 4, the bets were horse 8: 60 tickets, horse 1: 50 tickets, horse 9: 20 tickets and horse 12: 20 tickets. Each of these tickets referred to a ‘Win’ and a ‘Place’ bet.

17 For the entry ‘13/1/15’, that was the race result for race 1, where horse 13 came in first, followed by horse numbers 1 and 15. For ‘6/5/12’, that was the result for race 2, wherein horse 6 came in first before horses 5 and 12. For ‘3/8/14’, that was the result for race 3 and the horses had finished in the following order: horse 3, followed by horse 8 and then horse 14 in third place. With regard to the ‘21/9’ written under winning horse 3 in respect of race 3, that corresponded with the win-place dividends for horse 3, that is, $21 per ticket for a win and $9 per ticket for a place bet. The ‘12’ below the no. ‘14’ represented the place dividend for horse number 14. For the ‘17/9’ in respect of race 4, that was the winning dividend for winning horse 8 as corresponded with the Singapore Turf Club result for the Selangor meeting on P8. ‘17’ denoted $17 for one win ticket while ‘9’ meant $9 per ticket for a place bet ticket.

18 As for the entry ‘2220’ on P2 pg. 2, SSgt Kuek explained that it was an account of the winning payout for the three winning horses in race 2 as calculated from the accepted bets recorded multiplied by the payout dividend obtained from P8. With regard to the ‘750’, it stood for the winning payout for horse number 3 in race 3 on a bet of 25 tickets win and 25 tickets place. The ‘300’ entry is a representation of the winning payout for horse 3 as corresponded by the bets accepted for it as stated on P2 pg. 1.

19 SSgt Kuek...

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