SINGAPORE — Wanting to avoid the paperwork for dealing with a suspect who refused to provide a urine sample, a Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officer substituted his own urine sample in place of the subject’s.
Staff Sergeant Mohamed Hafiz Lan, 41, was jailed for one-and-a-half years on Monday (3 August) after he pleaded guilty to one count of engaging in a conspiracy with two other officers, Muhammad Zuhairi Zainuri and Abdul Rahman Kadir to intentionally obstruct the course of justice, by replacing the urine of a man accused of consuming drugs with his own.
The officer, who has been with CNB for 21 years, did not want to put do the paperwork to charge Maung Moe Min Oo for failing to provide a urine sample, said Hafiz’s lawyer Amarick Gill.
Hafiz and Zuhairi hence decided to tamper with the Instant Urine Test (IUT) process, after Maung’s ion swab test showed a positive reading for methamphetamine for Maung, the lawyer continued.
Zuhairi and Rahman have not been dealt with by the court. All three officers were interdicted from service last July.
Facts of the case
On 15 August 2018, Maung, a 32-year-old Singaporean, and a female companion were entering Singapore via Woodlands Checkpoint at about 9pm when they were stopped by Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officers. A swab test revealed the possibility that they had consumed drugs that day.
About two hours later, both were referred to the CNB office at the checkpoint for an IUT to determine if they had indeed consumed drugs.
Rahman requested that Maung provide a urine sample. However, the latter declined and asked to speak to Rahman privately. Rahman then brought Maung to an interview room with Zuhairi present, where Maung pleaded for leniency and asked for help to pass the urine test.
He claimed that he might fail the IUT test as he had inhaled the fumes produced by another person who had smoked methamphetamine. In fact, Maung had consumed methamphetamine himself earlier that day.
Meanwhile, Zuhairi left the room and told Hafiz that Maung was not being cooperative. He suggested that Hafiz tamper with Maung’s urine sample by switching it with another sample to expedite Maung’s departure from the office with no action taken against him.
Hafiz agreed with the suggestion. He and Zuhairi then cooked up a plan to throw off possible investigations.
Zuhairi entered a toilet with an empty bottle and left it at the basin at the entrance. He then found a used bottle in the toilet’s rubbish bin, brought it outside and threw it away in a bin there.
He did this so that CCTV cameras would capture him disposing of a bottle in order to give the impression that he threw away the bottle he had originally brought into the toilet.
Hafiz, who was also in the toilet, then urinated into the bottle left at the basin. He added water to his sample and left the bottle inside a cubicle before leaving the toilet.
Rahman later escorted Maung to a waiting area at the CNB office before he had a conservation with Hafiz, where Rahman was heard saying “you know what to do” and describing Maung as “cunning”. Rahman had told Maung to take it as his “second chance” and that “he did not want see (Maung) again”.
Another two hours later, at about 12.49am on 16 August 2018, Rahman and Hafiz escorted Maung to the toilet. Maung was given three bottles and told to follow Hafiz’s instructions. He was then told to retrieve Hafiz’s urine sample and dispose of his own urine sample which he had produced in one of the three bottles.
The trio then left the toilet and Maung was told to transfer Hafiz’s urine sample into the two other bottles. Rahman then used a pipette to siphon a portion of the urine sample in one of the bottles for the IUT to be administered.
As the IUT returned negative for drugs, Maung was able to leave Singapore with his female companion, whose urine sample also tested negative for drugs.
Caught again the next day
However, Maung re-entered Singapore the next day and was again detained for suspected drug consumption by another CNB team. Maung then told this new team that Rahman had helped him pass his IUT test the previous night.
Investigations against Maung were carried out and he was later admitted to a drug rehabilitation centre for drug consumption.
A review of the CCTV footage also revealed that the three accused could have tampered with Maung’s urine sample and the issue was referred to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau.
The prosecution sought one-and-a-half years’ jail for Hafiz, with Deputy Public Prosecutor Navin Naidu saying that CNB and its officers have an integral role in enforcing anti-drug policies.
The prosecutor told the court that it had come to its proposed sentence after considering three aggravating factors in Hafiz’s case: that he had committed the offence in the course of duty, that he had extensively planned and premeditated the offence, and that Singapore’s strict enforcement stance against drug offences was undermined by him.
It is a serious issue when officers act in dereliction of duties they are empowered to perform, said the prosecutor.
Defence lawyer Gill sought a jail term of between 12 to 15 months for his client, whom he said understood the aggravating factors cited by the prosecution.
His client is married with three children aged four to nine, the lawyer said in mitigation documents.
“Honestly, to be candid, it is what it is and this has been a fall from grace for Hafiz so I am urging a slight discount,” said Gill.
“Hafiz has served over 21 years with CNB and has an unblemished career rising up the ranks with good performance and conduct. It is such a shame that Hafiz resorted to this and damaged his reputation and career which he had worked so hard to build,” he said, adding that his client was “most remorseful” for his offence.
In giving his decision, District Judge Ow Yong Tuck Leong said that an uplift of sentence was appropriate in the case of law enforcement officers who commit offences while performing duties, even if there was no financial gain involved.
“A sentence of 18 months jail is fair to deter like-minded law enforcement officers from committing similar offences,” said the judge.
When contacted, a CNB spokesperson said that it did not condone acts of misconduct by its officers and took a serious view of any complaint or allegation regarding its urine testing processes.
When it uncovered the act by the three CNB officers, it referred the matter to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) and cooperated with the CPIB during investigations.
For obstructing the course of justice, Hafiz could have been fined up to seven years, fined, or both,
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