After speaking to AGC, investigation officer Kevin Han changed his position on document “NP299” which he had declared the First Information Report of the CHC case; defense “misled”.
When senior counsel for Tan Ye Peng, N. Sreenivasan wrote to the Commercial Affairs Department on July 27, 2012, requesting the certified true copy of the FIR—First Information Report—he was sent a copy of a document marked NP299, and charged $14 plus 20 cents for photocopy service.
But today in court, when Sreenivasan questioned Han as to whether NP299 was in fact the FIR, Han said no. He claimed that although that was his initial position, he had changed his mind shortly after—upon consulting with the Attorney General’s Chambers.
Furthermore, although he already had in his mind this was not the FIR, he made no attempt to inform Sreenivasan’s firm of the change. He told the court that the purpose of NP299 “to put on record our assessment and analysis of information that we received from various sources.”
In one of the lighter moments of today, Sreenivasan asked for a refund on the $14.20 he had paid CAD.
However, this matter was far from light. As Sreenivasan told the court today, the FIR as it enables the accused to know what exactly he is being accused of, and the case he has to meet. When information is given to the police about an alleged crime, the FIR is recorded, usually in writing. Based on the FIR, the police can then choose whether or not to commence investigations.
Since the end of yesterday’s court session, when Han told the court the first FIR was received in 2005—a statement he repeated today and later changed—there has been much discussion and argument over the actual FIR that sparked off the investigations on CHC in May 2010.
When further cross-examined by the defense, Han finally admitted that the FIR in relation to the present charges was only filed in the month of August 2008.
The court heard that although the FIR had been filed in August 2008, investigations only commenced in April 2010, 20 months after the CAD allegedly received information on the subject matter of the charges. When senior counsel N. Sreenivasan, defense lawyer for Tan Ye Peng, tried to seek clarification on this inexplicable delay from Han, deputy public prosecutor Mavis Chionh strenuously and repeatedly objected to his requests for further clarification.
The FIR had been a point of contention since the investigation officer took the stand yesterday. The gist of NP299 is falsification of accounts. The court heard that the defendants had been told that they were being investigated for conspiracy to commit Falsification of Accounts under section 477A of the Penal Code.
Sreenivasan put it to Han that none of the six were told they were being investigated for criminal breach of trust “until the caution statements were recorded, am I right?”
“Correct,” Han answered.
Han clarified that the 10 charges faced by the defendants arose from an FIR dated August 2008. This report was a Suspicious Transaction Report (STR) that Chionh argued—repeatedly—is protected by the CDSA (Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act) and not admissible as evidence in court.
However, defense counsel for Serina Wee, Andre Maniam told the court later on in the afternoon that he was considering making an official request to the prosecution to view the August 2008 STR. He quoted 40(A) of the CDSA which recognizes that a document may be liable to inspection by the accused or the counsels of the accused. But after multiple objections from the DPP and a protracted exchange about the document—which Chief District Judge See Kee Oon noted had been “blanked out” as all the information had been redacted by the Prosecution except for the “STR” title and date. Chionh continued to belabor the points that STRs were not admissible and that Maniam could make a formal request in writing to the AGC if he wanted see the document. The senior counsel stood by his oral request to the Prosecution to see the document.
In another moment in court, Sreenivasan read out a joint media statement by the Singapore Police Force and the COC dated May 31, 2010, which stated that “The COC received complaints of misuse of church funds and informed the CAD, when it assessed that some of these financial transactions may need to be investigated by the CAD.”
Sreenivasan asked Han if the COC was the informant in the FIR, and added that since COC had issued a media release, the informant was no longer secret, so could Han reveal the details of the FIR. Han disagreed with this, and the point was once again vigorously contested by Chionh.
Han told the court that the CAD had “made an assessment and analysis that suggested accounts of a certain registered charity organization had been falsified. When asked by Maniam if any of the accused or the auditors from Baker Tilly had been interviewed before this statement was issued, Han said no.
Kevin Han ended his time on the stand this afternoon. Court is scheduled to resume next Wednesday, 9.30am with Foong Ai Fang, the audit manager from Baker Tilly, taking the stand.