SINGAPORE: An employee at a company hired to use drones to inspect new HDB blocks at Bidadari estate forged a permit to allow his colleagues to enter the worksite on a date that was not approved by authorities.
For one count of forgery for the purposes of cheating, 28-year-old China national Tan Zhiping was jailed for eight weeks on Wednesday (Sep 16).
The court heard that Tan was a software engineer with HD Contractor, a subsidiary of a company that had another arm called MIRS Innovate, dealing with drone operations.
MIRS Innovate received a contract from the Housing Development Board (HDB) to conduct inspections for defects on the exterior of new HDB blocks at Bidadari estate, using drones.
In granting the permit, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) informed MIRS Innovate that entry and drone-flying were allowed only on specific dates in August last year.
CAAS considered that activities involving unmanned aerial activities might pose a danger to the military operations of the Republic of Singapore Air Force, as Bidadari estate was located within 5km of Paya Lebar Airbase.
The authority had stressed to Tan, who received the email, that the permit was granted subject to strict compliance with accompanying conditions.
In August last year, Tan's colleague asked for a copy of the permit, saying he would be heading to Bidadari estate with other colleagues for a drone flight test for an inspection assignment.
Tan altered the dates on the permit to include Aug 23 and Aug 27, so that his colleagues could present the forged document to security and be allowed entry.
Tan gave his colleague the forged permit on the morning of Aug 27, telling him he could use the permit to enter but not to fly drones.
His colleague did not understand what Tan meant and did not know that the permit had been altered. Using the permit, he and two colleagues gained entry to Bidadari estate and used a drone to take photos and videos.
A police officer from a nearby Gurkha contingent saw the drone and alerted the authorities.
SUCH OFFENCES ARE SERIOUS: PROSECUTOR
The prosecutor called for at least eight weeks' jail, saying that even though there was no fiscal motive or loss, Tan had "essentially allowed for the unauthorised flying of a drone".
"Parliament has stated in the context of the offences under the Air Navigation Order ... that such offences are serious, as they pose consequences to aircraft safety and have an impact on Singapore as an aviation hub," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Chong Kee En.
He added that there was "a real danger that arose to military security concerns", as the specific dates of approval for the genuine permit might have included timings of both the RSAF's military operations and the Gurkha contingent's.
Defence lawyer Chung Ting Fai asked for the lightest possible prison term, saying that Tan had been working overtime the night before the incident when his colleague approached him for the document.
"When he amended the pass for his colleagues, he did not realise the gravity of his offence," said Mr Chung, adding that Tan had pleaded guilty early.
Tan's employers were later censured by CAAS and had the project terminated prematurely, with no further work awarded to the company, said the lawyer.
Despite this, Tan maintained his working position in the company, which still finds his performance satisfactory and is prepared to give a good testimony of Tan, said Mr Chung.
"This speaks volumes of the conduct and the performance of the accused in the company," he added.
Tan is the main breadwinner of his family and "has been fond of Singapore" during his almost two years here, and did not benefit financially from the crime, said Mr Chung.
For forging a document for the purpose of cheating, Tan could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.