SINGAPORE: A former policeman who pocketed S$35,000 in bribes from a suspect was sentenced to 32 months’ jail on Thursday (Oct 13) for corruption.
Former Staff Sergeant Woo Poh Liang, 29, had promised to help Filipino Beltran Angelo Salvador – who was caught red-handed taking an upskirt video – to avoid prosecution. In return, Woo wanted S$100,000.
On Sep 17, 2014, Beltran emptied his bank accounts and handed S$35,000 in cash – his entire savings – to Woo.
Though Woo kept his word and recommended Beltran be given a warning, the Attorney-General’s Chambers disagreed. When Woo broke the news to Beltran that he would be charged, Beltran complained to the Corrupt Practices Bureau about the policeman’s conduct.
“The S$35,000 bribe … appears to be the largest in Singapore’s history with regard to police officers receiving monetary bribes,” Deputy Public Prosecutor Norman Yew said.
“(Woo) also initiated the corrupt transactions … (and) in dereliction of his duties, recorded falsehoods in (Beltran’s) statement; (Woo) was fabricating evidence,” the prosecutor added.
In sentencing Woo, District Judge Kamala Ponnampalam said the policeman, who was “in a position of power and able to influence the outcome of the investigation”, had targeted “a foreign national in Singapore … (who was) helpless and dependent on him for a good outcome for his case”.
Judge Kamala ordered Woo to pay a penalty of S$35,000 – the amount he pocketed as a result of his actions.
Besides the corruption charges, Woo also pleaded guilty to six counts for various illegal betting offences, including for acting as a bookmaker and placing illegal bets on the FIFA World Cup 2014.
He had “moonlighted by engaging in illegal activities to supplement his income with ill-gotten gains”, DPP Yew told the court.
Judge Kamala on Thursday ordered Woo to pay a fine of S$20,000 for acting as a bookmaker. Woo received jail terms ranging from one week to one month for the six charges; these have been included in the total sentence of 31 months and four weeks for the corruption and illegal betting offences.
Another 12 charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.
In mitigation, Woo’s lawyer A K Nakoorsha said the policeman had been labouring under an “emotional and financial toll” from supporting his young family and aged parents.
His father suffers kidney failure and nasal cancer, Mr Nakoorsha said. When Woo asked Beltran for money, he had told him it was for his father’s cancer treatment, the court heard.
Regarding the illegal betting offences, Mr Nakoorsha, who took on Woo’s case under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, said the offences had not caused harm to society. The betting had been “kept strictly within the confines of close friends and relatives”, Mr Nakoorsha said.
Woo’s betting offences had come to light as a result of the CPIB’s investigations into Beltran’s allegations. For corruption, Woo could have been jailed for up to five years and fined up to S$100,000.