Tan Puay Boon v Public Prosecutor

JurisdictionSingapore
JudgeYong Pung How CJ
Judgment Date18 August 2003
Neutral Citation[2003] SGHC 186
Docket NumberMagistrate's Appeal No 306 of 2002 Criminal Motion No 13 of 2003
Date18 August 2003
Published date03 October 2003
Year2003
Plaintiff CounselM Ravi (M Ravi & Co) and Vinit Chhabra (C H Chan & Chhabra)
Citation[2003] SGHC 186
Defendant CounselDavid Chew Siong Tai and Tan Wen Hsien (Deputy Public Prosecutors)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject MatterPurpose of admitting expert evidence,s 477A Penal Code (Cap 224),Principles,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Criminal Law,Falsification of accounts,Appeal,When additional evidence may be adduced,Evidence,Expert evidence,Whether opinion of expert necessary in present case,Threefold test,Applicable principles when determining appropriate sentence,Documents,Falsification of documents,s 257(1) Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68),Sentencing,Offences,Adducing fresh evidence

1 The appellant was tried and convicted in the district court on eight charges under s 477A of the Penal Code (Cap 224). Another 109 similar charges were not tried. The first four charges relating to false entries made on salary rolls were that the appellant, being an officer of A-P Engineering Pte Ltd (“APE”) had wilfully and with intention to defraud: -

(a) made false entries of the name “Wan Yoke Kee” and salary of $1,278.50 to a salary roll dated 28 April 1994 (“Charge A”);

(b) made a false entry to a salary roll dated 28 April 1994, by entering her payable salary as $2,511.00 (“Charge B”);

(c) made false entries of the name “Wan Yoke Kee” and the salary of $1,020.50 in a salary roll dated 29 June 1994 (“Charge C”); and

(d) made false entries of the name “Lim Boon Hua” and salary of $1,020.50 in a salary roll dated 29 June 1994 (“Charge D”).

2 The remaining four charges concerning false entries made to APE payment vouchers were that the appellant had: -

(a) made a false entry “Yann Dung” in the “Pay to” column of a payment voucher dated 18 July 1994 (“Charge E”);

(b) made a false entry of “Yann Dung Co Ltd” in the “Pay to” column of a payment voucher dated 8 February 1996 (“Charge F”);

(c) made a false entry of “Yann Ding Co Ltd” in the “Pay to” column of payment voucher dated 15 March 1996 (“Charge G”); and

(d) made a false entry of “Yann Ding Co Ltd” in the “Pay to” column of payment voucher dated 2 August 1999 (“Charge H”).

3 The appellant was sentenced to imprisonment terms of 18 months (charge E), 12 months (charge F), 6 months (charge G) and 3 months for each of the five remaining charges. The first three sentences were to run consecutively and the others were to run concurrently with the sentence for charge E, aggregating a total of 36 months. The appellant appealed against her conviction and her sentences. I dismissed the appeal and now give my reasons.

Background

4 One Hsu Tien Fou (“Hsu”) set up APE in 1984. He had since been both the managing director and majority shareholder. The appellant joined as a clerk and was tasked with finance and administrative work. After A-P Precision Plastics Ptd Ltd (“APP”) was set up in 1991, Hsu invited her to be a shareholder. In or around 1995, she was promoted to Finance and Administration Executive in APE and was appointed a director of APP. In mid-2000, Asia-Micro Holdings Ltd (“Asia-Micro”), a shareholder of APE, uncovered some accounting irregularities and, together with Hsu, confronted the appellant. The appellant then resigned on 19 June 2000.

5 It was not disputed that the appellant prepared the false salary rolls and payment vouchers. For charges A and B, the prosecution submitted that the appellant prepared two different salary rolls, such that an inflated salary was credited to her bank account. The second page of one roll had entries of $1,278.50 and $1,232.50 paid to one Wan Yoke Kee (”WYK”) and herself, while the other roll had the combined sum of $2,511 paid to the appellant. In similar fashion, the prosecution argued that for charges C and D, two salary rolls were used. The second page of one roll listed payments of $1,236.50 and $1,237.40 made to one Wan Kok Cheng (“WKC”) and one Ng Chong Huat (“Ng”), while the other roll recorded payment of $1,020.50 and $2,511 to the appellant’s husband one Lim Boon Hua, and herself respectively.

6 Hsu claimed there were no such employees as WYK, WKC and Ng. Neither did he know the appellant’s husband though he had met him. The prosecution’s case was that Hsu, having trusted the appellant, did not check the second pages of the salary rolls before signing. Hence the appellant could have substituted the second page of the rolls with the false records after Hsu had signed the cover page. The appellant however denied any intention to defraud, claiming that Hsu instructed her to use fictitious names so that the other employees would not know of her high salary. Her husband’s name was used to enable APE to increase the number of local employees on the payroll and hire more foreign workers. She testified that her salary was increased from $2,900 to $3,200-$3,500 in 1994, then to $4,000 in mid 1995 and finally to $6,000-$6,500 in 1996. In contrast, Hsu’s evidence was that in 1994, her gross salary was $1,500. She then drew a gross salary of $2,500 in 1997 which was only increased to $4,000 in February or March 2000.

7 The payment vouchers for charges E to H, which were all unsigned, were made in favour of Yann Ding Pte Ltd (“YD”) from “creditor account”. The prosecution argued that they were in reality payable to the appellant. APE dealt with the Taiwanese subcontractor YD, but Hsu denied authorising these payments. The $22,200 cheque (Charge E) was not noted in the small cash book maintained by the appellant. In her defence, the appellant testified that she, her mother and sister had made loans to APE from time to time. Hsu had taken a loan from her mother and was repaying it from the YD account. She also said that Hsu had told her he had personally paid the creditor YD on APE’s behalf, so she understood that he would draw sums from that account whenever he needed to.

8 While the payment voucher for $11,000 (Charge F) was unsigned, a cash cheque for this same date and amount was signed by Hsu, with the appellant’s initials and IC number written on the reverse side. Hsu had no impression of authorising this large payment, but the appellant alleged that Hsu needed money for a trip to China, and he had driven her to the bank where she cashed the cheque for him. This cheque was recorded in the cash book under payment to “Yann Dung”.

9 The next payment voucher of $4,719.05 (Charge G) was paid to UOB Card Centre for the appellant’s UOB credit card bill. Hsu denied authorising payment for the appellant’s expenses. He might have signed the cheque thinking it was for payment of his own UOB credit card bill. The appellant’s version was that Hsu had applied for a UOB Visa business card for her in 1993 or 1994, and had occasionally paid her bills since she had worked in APE for sixteen years and had received no pay for her APP work. Documents were adduced to show that he had paid for her OCBC credit card bill, other UOB credit card bills, HDB season carpark fees and for an overseas trip with her husband. This cheque was reflected in the small cash book as made to “Yann Dung”.

10 A cheque of $2,500, corresponding to the last payment voucher (Charge H) was paid to the appellant. Hsu explained that he had probably signed it thinking that it was a salary cheque to the appellant. This payment was recorded in the small cash book as payment to “Ding Yann”. The appellant refuted by saying that Hsu took a loan from her around end July 1999, and instructed her to prepare the voucher under YD account from which he would repay her.

11 Hsu’s evidence was that he did not check accounting records or cash books, since he did not know English and trusted the appellant to handle it. The appellant kept the cheque books, and Hsu often left pre-signed blank cheques with her before going overseas. Payment vouchers and supporting documents were occasionally shown to him before signing, but the appellant would verbally explain what payments were for. The appellant denied these claims, but testified that there were no blank cheques and that Hsu would not sign cheques without seeing supporting documents. In fact, it was Hsu who first taught her to perform her duties in finance. To bolster these claims, one Francis Chan (“Chan”), who used to be Engineering and Marketing Manager of APE, testified that he had seen Hsu and the appellant going through the small cash books many times, and he had not seen Hsu signing blank cheques. Additionally, one Toh Eng Seng (“Toh”), a previous director and shareholder of APP, stated that Hsu was a shrewd man, and that Hsu would check everything before signing APP cheques.

The Decision Below

12 The trial judge dismissed the defence. She was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the appellant’s gross salary was only $1,500 instead of the alleged $3,200, and hence the argument that Hsu wanted to hide her high salary gave way regarding charges A to D. With regard to charges E, F and H, the judge accepted Hsu’s evidence that he was not shown the payment vouchers, and rejected the appellant’s account of the loans made to APE. The claim of cashing the $11,000 cheque was also rejected as not being convincing as the expenses could have easily been attributed as a business expense. The appellant, she concluded, had deliberately exploited the dormant YD creditor account to mask unauthorised payments to herself. Finally, for charge G, the trial judge accepted Hsu’s evidence that the company did not pay for the appellant’s credit card or her bills. It was unlikely that he would reward her in such a haphazard manner, especially in paying for supposedly business expenses.

The Law

13 All eight charges were under section 477A of the Penal Code, which states:

Whoever, being a clerk, officer or servant, or employed or acting in the capacity of a clerk, officer or servant, wilfully and with intent to defraud destroys, alters, mutilates or falsifies any book, paper, writing, valuable security or account which belongs to or is in the possession of his employer, or has been received by him for or on behalf of his employer, or wilfully and with intent to defraud makes or abets the making of any false entry in, or omits or alters or abets the omission or alteration of any material particular from or in any such book, paper, writing, valuable security or account, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 7 years, or with fine, or with both.

14 Since it was not disputed that the appellant as finance and administrative executive was an “officer” of APE and that she committed the alleged acts, the crucial issue was proof of the requisite mens rea. The falsifications had to be done wilfully and with...

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    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2003, December 2003
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