SINGAPORE — A police officer in debt due to the birth of his baby decided to forge documents in order to apply for loans under his brother’s name, without his sibling's knowledge.
Muhammad Aqib Akhtar, 31, was jailed for 20 weeks on Tuesday (23 November) after pleading guilty to one count of forgery and one count of obstructing justice.
Another four counts of cheating were taken into consideration for his sentencing. The Staff Sergeant has since been suspended by the Singapore Police Force.
The nine-year police veteran was previously investigated for financial embarrassment.
$16,000 in debt
In February last year, Aqib incurred about $16,000 in hospital bills due to his wife’s emergency caesarean operation. His wife was also under the Debt Repayment Scheme and had to pay $1,000 a month.
The accused paid about half of the bills by credit card but was worried about his expenses as he had been investigated for financial embarrassment in 2016.
He decided to apply for credit cards and personal bank loans under his brother’s name to repay his debt.
Aqib then downloaded a smartphone application to edit PDF documents. He downloaded a Notice of Assessment (NOA) - a document issued by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore - belonging to him and replaced his details with his brother’s details.
Aqib also asked his brother for photographs of his NRIC to support the applications. At the time, the brother had sought Aqib’s help to apply for a job as a GrabFood delivery rider and so sent a copy of his NRIC to facilitate the application.
On 5 May last year, Aqib submitted an online application to OCBC Bank for a credit card, uploading his brother's NOA and his NRIC copy.
Aqib also forged a Central Provident Fund statement and payslips from Singapore Airlines using his brother’s details and applied for credit cards or loans to four other banks from 5 to 12 May last year.
OCBC Bank found out about the forged NOA on 6 May last year, while none of the banks approved the credit card or loans.
Attempt to cover his tracks
Officers from the Commerical Affairs Department started investigations into the matter. When Aqib learnt about this, he deleted the incriminating documents from his phone around 4 June last year. He was investigated by the police on the same day and his phone seized during investigations.
The deleted documents were then retrieved via forensic extraction.
In mitigation, Aqib’s lawyer S S Dhillon set out the circumstances which led to his offending behaviour. Married with three young children, Aqib had his judgement "clouded by his financial dilemma” after his wife’s complicated pregnancy led to mounting debt.
His wife, who was working for Singapore Airlines, also had her pay cut from $2,300 to $2,000 due to the pandemic. Her increments and bonuses were frozen, in addition to having to pay $1,000 a month.
“Aqib’s attempts to solve his financial problems is akin to a drowning man clutching at a last straw. Although Aqib is physical alive, but emotionally, he is completely drained of his vigour to live,” said Dhillon.
In seeking six months' jail, the prosecution said that Aqib had premeditated the offence and abused his brother’s trust by using his details.
The judge allowed Aqib to defer his sentencing to complete his exam as he is currently pursuing further studies.
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