Ex-Clementi mosque chairman admits siphoning $370,000 from cash donations over 7 years

Amir Hussain
Senior Reporter
Ab Mutalif Hashim pleaded guilty to six out of 14 charges of criminal breach of trust. (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

As the chairman of Masjid Darussalam, a mosque in Clementi, Ab Mutalif Hashim was entrusted to its coffers, which would be filled with cash donations from its congregants.

But the 58-year-old blatantly disregarded financial regulations put in place by the governing religious body, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, or Muis, which stipulates that the opening of donation chests in mosques has to be witnessed by two people.

Instead, under the guise of “safekeeping” the donation boxes in his office after prayers, Mutalif siphoned off $371,891 from the mosque over seven years. He used the money for various purposes including paying his credit card bills, household expenses and even for holidays.

But Mutalif’s crimes came to light when there was a noticeable surge in cash collections after he stepped down from his position at the mosque in March 2013. The mosque’s cash collections rose from as low as $10,000 a month, when he was still chairman, to as high as $60,000 after he left.

At the State Courts six years later on Tuesday (12 March), Mutalif pleaded guilty to six out of 14 charges of criminal breach of trust.

He admitted to the remaining counts as part of his plea bargain and these charges will be considered in his sentencing.

Mutalif is expected to be sentenced on April 15.

Pocketed cash after prayer sessions

Mutalif was the chairman of the mosque’s management board from 2003 to August 2010, when he became the voluntary chairman of the board up till March 2013.

While he was on the board, he set up the Just Parenting Association (JPA) and served as its executive director. He was also the president of the Association for Devoted and Active Family Men (ADAM).

According to Muis’ financial regulations, the opening and counting of chests and donation boxes have to be witnessed by two persons. All cash collected in excess of $500 also have to be banked in within three working days. Cash collected below $500 have to be banked in within seven working days.

Revenue from the donation boxes also have to be recorded, with two witnesses required for the counting and recording of cash. The personal particulars and signatures of the witnesses also have to be recorded.

All cash collected also have to be kept in the mosque’s safe, and staff are not allowed to hold petty cash above $500.

“After the prayer sessions, the accused instructed the mosque’s volunteers and caretakers to bring the chests and containers to his office for ‘safekeeping’, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenneth Chin.

These boxes would be labelled as “Tabung Jumaat (Friday collections)” or “Tabung Kebajikan (welfare collections)”.

The staff complied with Mutalif’s instructions. Between 1 January 2006 and 31 March 2013, he dishonestly misappropriated $371,891.

Mutalif would simply pocket the cash and deposit it in various bank accounts without the knowledge of the mosque’s management board. He used some of the money to pay for the expenses of JPA and ADAM.

After Mutalif had unlawfully taken the cash, he would instruct the mosque’s volunteers and caretakers to bring the balance of the collection to the administrative office for counting. The remaining cash would then be counted and recorded as per Muis’ financial regulations. It would then be deposited into the mosque’s bank account.

“The monies in JPA’s account were mainly for its operational expenses, including payroll, rental and utilities. Between August 2010 and August 2011, the accused drew a monthly salary of $7,000 as the executive director of the JPA,” said DPP Chin.

Between October 2011 and February 2012, a sole proprietorship registered in Mutalif’s wife’s name, Middle Way Services, donated five cheques worth $130,848 for Masjid Darussalam’s toilet renovation.

The police’s Commercial Affairs Department seized Mutalif’s bank account with a balance of $96,788 on 13 December 2013.

For each of his four proceeded charges committed after 2008, Mutalif faces up to seven years’ jail along with a fine.

For each of his two proceed charges committed before 2008, when the Penal Code was amended, Mutalif faces up to three years’ jail along with a fine.

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