Police officer admits to being member of 2 secret societies

(PHOTO: Getty Images)

UPDATE: Statement from the Singapore Police Force on the case

A police officer pleaded guilty on Thursday (31 May) to being a senior member of the Sio Gi Ho secret society as well as the founder and headman of a biker gang.

Umar Hassan, 38, pleaded guilty at the State Courts to two charges of being a member of an unlawful society. Two other similar charges were taken into consideration.

Double life

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Charleston Teo told the court that Umar was a Senior Staff Sergeant at the Ang Mo Kio Police Division at the time he was arrested on 18 November 2016. His role consisted mainly of desk jobs and patrolling duties.

Umar was recruited into the Sio Gi Ho Secret Society (SGHSS) as a senior gang member in 2007, eight years after he joined the police force. The gang operated near Tekka Market in Little India.

He remained in SGHSS until the time of his arrest. Teo said that Umar was also a “fighter” with the gang from 1996 to 1999. Umar joined the police force in May 1999.

Separately, Umar had founded a motorcycle group called Team Nitra Racing (TNR) with three others in 2001. New members who joined over the years were told by Umar to avoid fights and illegal races.

However, in 2008 Umar approached the assistant headman of SGHSS with a proposal to affiliate TNR with the gang.

In return for protection, TNR would provide SGHSS with manpower should the latter group need it. The assistant headman agreed and appointed Umar as the headman of TNR.

Umar’s involvement with the gang surfaced after police officers from the police force’s Secret Societies Branch received a video that showed a group of men shouting gang slogans – such as “Yo ah yo, Sio Gi Ho!” – during a Malay wedding held at Woodlands Street 41.

They also displayed motorcycle helmets which had “Team Nitra Racing” symbols and the Chinese characters “Meng Jiang” (“fierce general” in English) on them. The term “Meng Jiang” is associated with SGHSS.

Investigations sparked by the video led the police to Umar. His Facebook account, laptop, and mobile phone contained several photos of him posing with gang-related hand signs. Six helmets and four shirts with gang insignias were also found at his residence.

Teo told the court that SGHSS had a history of criminal activity. Between the 1950s and 1960s, the gang was involved in numerous firearm robberies and kidnappings. The group also engaged in bloody clashes with rival gangs.

In 2002, SGHSS’ assistant headman was served with a detention order for possession of gangland weapons, extortion, rioting and the recruitment of secret society members.

‘Violation of his duties’

Teo asked the court for at least one year’s jail term for Umar.

In mitigation, defense counsel Nor Hakim Md Shah said that a year’s jail was “excessive”.

Nor Hakim cited past cases in which gang members involved in rioting with weapons received two to three months’ jail. His client, he argued, did not engage in any criminal activity beyond being a member.

Furthermore, Umar did not abuse his authority as a police officer to advance any gang-related causes. Neither did he gain any remuneration nor gratification as a result of his post, added the lawyer.

Teo acknowledged that Umar was not involved in any such criminal activities and there was no evidence that he had abused his powers.

However, having a police officer as a senior gang member “legitimises” criminal activities for other members, and “emboldens” them, “even if the officer himself did not engage in criminal activity”, he added.

Teo also noted that Umar was a “catalyst for converting TNR” into a gang affiliated with SGHSS even though as a police officer, he knew that secret societies are illegal. It was a “violation of his duties as a police officer”, added DPP Teo.

Judge Jasvender Kaur said Umar’s actions were “quite shocking” and added that he had tarnished the image of the Singapore Police Force. Umar will be sentenced on 20 June.

For being a member of a secret society Umar could be sentenced to up to three years’ jail, fined up to $5,000, or both.

On Wednesday, a full-time police national serviceman – who was also a member of the Sio Kun Tong secret society – was jailed and caned for harbouring a fellow gang member suspected of having committed a murder.

Statement from police on Umar’s case

In response to queries from Yahoo News Singapore on Umar’s gang background, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said it conducts vetting on shortlisted applicants for police jobs.

“Notwithstanding these measures, we recognise that we may not always detect the adverse background of all the applicants, such as in this case,” the SPF said.

“SPF has also reviewed our screening processes to minimise the possibility of similar cases from falling through the gaps again in future,” it added.

Umar’s gang affiliation was subsequently detected during the police’s probe into gang-related activities. SPF conducted extensive investigations into his history, the extent of his secret society involvement, and whether he had attempted to recruit his colleagues.

The SPF also examined the information which Umar had access to and whether he had used it in a manner prejudicial to SPF, and law and order. Based on its investigations so far, SPF said there is no indication of such abuse.

SPF added that it takes a “zero-tolerance approach” to officers who break the law, and will not hesitate to remove them from their positions and take action against them in accordance with the law.

“Umar had been interdicted from service since 14 December 2017. Should he be convicted, we will commence disciplinary proceedings against him, with a view to dismissing him from service.”

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