SINGAPORE: A woman, who had used her position as a customer service officer at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), and her daughter were jailed for taking bribes from a Malaysian woman to expedite her application for Singapore permanent residency.
Lucy Teo, 49, on Tuesday (Oct 27) pleaded guilty to five charges of unauthorised access of computer materials and one count of bribery. Another 13 charges were taken into consideration. She was given 18 weeks’ jail.
Her daughter, 28-year-old Loo Wai Woon Sharon, admitted to one count of bribery and was sentenced to six weeks' jail and a penalty of S$1,500. Another one charge was taken into consideration.
Fenny Tey Hui Nee, the woman who bribed them when she applied to be a Singapore permanent resident (PR), had been sentenced to four weeks’ jail on Jun 29 this year.
APPLYING FOR PR
The court heard that in July 2017, Tey had made enquiries to be a Singapore PR at Immigration Solutions Singapore (ISS), where Loo was working as a sales consultant.
Loo told Tey that ISS offered PR application services which would cost her S$5,000.
But Tey felt this was too expensive and chose not to engage ISS.
She did however reach out to Loo privately, hoping Loo would agree to help in her personal capacity instead and possibly pay a lower fee.
Loo proposed engaging a cousin who worked at ICA, who could help Tey expedite the process, which would cost her S$1,500.
The ICA connection turned out to be Teo, Loo's mother, who worked as a customer service officer. At the time, Teo’s job scope included handling public enquiries for passports, visa and PR applications matters.
Loo told Tey that Teo had successfully helped many foreigners with their PR applications, including those who had previously been rejected.
Loo also said that Teo had first-hand information and could view e-appointment booking slots before members of the public could, suggesting Tey would stand a higher chance of success.
Tey met Teo four times between September and October in 2017 and paid S$1,500 during the last two meetings in two equal instalments.
Tey had wanted to make the payment via a bank transfer so that she would have proof of the transaction but Teo declined and said she only accepted payment in cash.
On Oct 13, 2017, Tey went to ICA to submit her application papers and was met by Teo who helped her with some of the paperwork and application procedures.
Tey’s application was eventually approved and she was granted PR status on Nov 9, 2018.
USED ICA SYSTEM TO CHECK APPLICATION STATUS
In the months before the approval, Tey had asked Teo about the status of her application.
The court heard that Teo had used her account on the ICA’s Central Identification and Registration Information System to check on Tey’s case – something she was not authorised to do.
Tey was not the only person Teo did this for.
The court heard that Teo had conducted a total of 20 unauthorised checks between May 25 and Oct 30 in 2018, including for her brother-in-law, who had asked her to check on two of his colleagues’ PR applications.
The issue came to light on Oct 23, 2018, when Teo approached a subordinate to check a PR status in the system, and said she was following up on a friend's request.
Teo’s superior was then alerted and notified ICA’s management as the information should not be disclosed to outsiders.
An internal audit was conducted on Teo’s work account, where it emerged that she had performed several unauthorised screenings which were not part of her job.
She was interdicted by ICA on Dec 19, 2018.
Both Teo and Loo have not returned the S$1,500 they received from Tey. Loo claimed she spent the money on daily expenses and bills.
ICA TO TAKE DISCIPLINARY ACTION
In response to queries by CNA, ICA said it takes a "serious view of errant officers", and those who break the law "will be dealt with accordingly".
"Following Lucy Teo’s conviction in court, appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken against her with a view to dismiss her from service," ICA said.
It added: "ICA officers are expected to maintain a high standard of integrity and remain professional at all times. All officers are constantly reminded on the expected conduct and behaviour."
The authority said it regularly conducts audits and issues advisories reminding officers against the misuse of IT systems.
ICA also added it will be reviewing Tey’s PR status.