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The Straits Times
Nov 8, 2022
Sentenced to 27 months’ jail in 2020 for cheating an intellectually disabled man of at least $84,000, a woman then applied to adduce two statements from the victim as fresh evidence shortly before her appeal was heard in 2021.
Tan Hwee Ngo argued there were inconsistencies between the statements made by the victim, petrol pump attendant Tan Soy Kiang, and his testimony in court.
Her application was allowed by Justice Aedit Abdullah, who directed for a remittal hearing before District Judge Terence Tay, who had convicted and sentenced Tan in 2020.
The remittal hearing looked into issues including whether the fresh evidence could affect Judge Tay’s original findings and decision. On Tuesday, following the hearing, he said the purported inconsistencies did not affect his original decisions.
Tan, now 73, was convicted on July 13, 2020, of 169 cheating charges after a trial.
In their submissions for the remittal hearing, Deputy Public Prosecutors Edwin Soh and Ng Shao Yan said 168 of the charges involved Tan duping Mr Tan, then 76, into passing at least $500 of his monthly salary to their friend, Madam Boo Sok Hiang, 71, by claiming the monies were needed for Singapore’s late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. Mr Tan did as he was told from January 2000 to December 2013.
Madam Boo died of heart disease on April 21, 2016, before Tan’s trial began.
Separately, in June 1999, Tan deceived Mr Tan into withdrawing his entire Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings totalling more than $53,000 by claiming that the payments were needed for Mr Lee.
For committing the offences, Tan was sentenced to 27 months’ jail in August 2020. She later appealed against her conviction and sentence.
At 10.28pm on the night before the hearing of her appeal in 2021, she applied to adduce two statements from Mr Tan dated Feb 5, 2015, and Feb 23, 2016, as fresh evidence, due to purported inconsistencies.
For instance, in his 2015 statement to the authorities, Mr Tan said: “For my CPF account, I did not pass any amount to (Madam Boo but loaned $300 to Tan) to help her.
“The other amount from my CPF account that was withdrawn, I (have spent or loaned) to other friends already.”
But in court, he testified that he had gone to a CPF service centre to withdraw his savings before calling Tan to give her the monies.
Separately, Mr Tan said in his 2016 statement that the money he had given Tan and Madam Boo were purportedly for a lawyer’s fees.
But in court, Mr Tan testified that Tan had told him that the monies were for Mr Lee.
For the remittal hearing, Mr Tan was found to be medically unfit to give reliable evidence as a witness, as he had been diagnosed with conditions including vascular dementia.
The prosecutors said: “The only issue before this court now is whether the admission of the statements as evidence changes its earlier decision to convict the accused. The prosecution submits it should not.
“Although there are some inconsistencies between the victim’s statements and his court testimony, they are insufficient to cast reasonable doubt over the conviction. This is because there is a mountain of objective evidence proving the accused’s guilt.”
Citing some examples, the prosecutors said Tan admitted in one of her statements that she had cheated Mr Tan. She also admitted her guilt on the matter when she spoke to two reporters earlier.
The DPPs added that Madam Boo also admitted in her statements that Tan had cheated Mr Tan.
Arguing that Mr Tan’s two statements should not affect the court’s decision to convict Tan on all charges, the prosecutors said: “The limited inconsistencies in the victim’s statements and his court testimony must be viewed in context of his mental disability. The victim suffers from a mild intellectual disability, which may hinder his understanding of questions and contribute to unwitting discrepancies in his personal evidence.
“It appears that the victim’s medical condition only deteriorated after the trial, as his executive functioning declined (from) 2020 and his cognitive functioning deteriorated after his two falls in 2021.”
The DPPs urged the court to maintain its earlier findings and decision to convict Tan of all charges.
Tan’s appeal over her cheating charges may be heard in the future.