SINGAPORE: Seah Hock Thiam, who once championed the Yellow Ribbon Project which helps reformed offenders start afresh, was on Tuesday jailed six weeks for abetting his driver to get someone to take the rap for his friends’ traffic offences.
Seah, who is the chairman of several companies, including Esun International, is also an ambassador for the Industrial & Services Co—operative Society, one of the agencies that started the Yellow Ribbon Project.
The 45—year—old instigated his driver, Mr Mohamad Azmi Abdul Wahab, in August 2009 to engage two ’scapegoats’ — Salami Badrus and Rosniwati Jumani — to assume criminal liability for parking offences that were committed by his friends, Mr Ho Ah Huat and Mr Ong Pang Aik.
The offences each carried a S$120 fine and three demerit points.
Mr Ho is the former chief executive officer of Scorpio East Entertainment, while Mr Ong is the chairman and managing director of construction firm Lian Beng Group.
Seah claimed trial in July 2012.
During the trial, Seah’s driver, Mohamad Azmi testified that Seah had asked him to "settle" the traffic offences. He said he agreed to help because Seah had been "very supportive" of him as his employer.
Each of the ’scapegoats’ was paid about S$300.
In meting out the sentence, the district judge noted features of Seah’s case that distinguished itself from the case involving prominent plastic surgeon Woffles Wu Tze Liang.
In June, Wu was ordered to pay the maximum fine of S$1,000 for getting an elderly employee to take the rap for him for a speeding offence. The 52—year—old had abetted Mr Kuan Kit Wah, then 76, to provide false information to the police.
The judge noted that in Wu’s case, there was no indication that any monetary rewards had been given by him, whereas in Seah’s case, he had paid money to the ’scapegoats’.
Also, Wu had pleaded guilty, whereas Seah, who faced more serious charges, claimed trial.
The judge added: "The offences in this case undermine the points demerit system... A deterrent sentence is called for to deter others from committing the same offence."
However, the judge noted that Seah’s contributions to charitable organisations and community work were taken into consideration in sentencing.
Seah’s lawyer told the court that he will file an appeal.
He could have been jailed up to seven years and fined for each charge.
The Attorney—General’s Chambers (AGC) also noted the comparisons between the two cases.
In a statement on Tuesday, it pointed out two key differences.
First, Wu’s offences were committed in 2005 and 2006, while Seah’s offences were committed in 2009.
The prosecution can only charge a person with committing offences under the law of the day.
In Wu’s case, the prosecution could not have charged him under Section 204A of the Penal Code,1 as Section 204A was introduced into the Penal Code only on 1 February 2008.
The prosecution proceeded under section 81(3) of the Road Traffic Act, which was less severe.
In contrast, Seah’s offences were committed in 2009, after the tougher penalty under Section 204A had been introduced into the Penal Code.
The punishment for an offence under Section 204A of the Penal Code is a jail term of up to seven years, or with fine, or with both.
The punishment for an offence under Section 81(3) of the Road Traffic Act is a fine not exceeding $1,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both.
Second, while there was no evidence of payment between Wu and his ’scapegoat’, there was clear evidence that Seah had paid each of the two ’scapegoats’.
The AGC described this as a significant aggravating factor.
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