SINGAPORE: A former chairman of a mosque's management board on Tuesday (Mar 12) admitted to misappropriating more than S$370,000 from mosque donations over seven years.
Ab Mutalif Hashim, 58, pleaded guilty to six criminal breach of trust charges, with another eight charges taken into consideration.
The court heard that Mutalif siphoned the cash from donations at the Masjid Darussalam mosque in Commonwealth Avenue West between Jan 1, 2006, and Mar 31, 2013.
He was chairman of the mosque management board between 2003 and August 2010, continuing as voluntary chairman up to March 2013.
Mutalif was also the executive director of the Just Parenting Association (JPA) which he had set up, and the president of registered charity Association for Devoted and Active Family Men (ADAM).
His actions were discovered after he stepped down from his role and there was a marked increase in mosque donations.
Those who visited the mosque gave donations by placing cash into donation chests and containers inside the mosque, labelled "tabung jumaat" or Friday collections and "tabung kebajikan" or welfare collections.
Mutalif would instruct mosque volunteers and caretakers to take the chests and containers to his office for "safekeeping" after the prayer sessions, the court heard.
He took some of the cash and deposited it into various bank accounts without the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore's (MUIS) knowledge and authorisation, or used the money to pay for the expenses of the ADAM charity.
Mutalif would then instruct the mosque volunteers and caretakers to take the balance of the donations to an administrative office for counting. This balance was counted and recorded in the mosque's accounting system and deposited into the mosque's bank account.
HE SPENT SOME OF THE MONEY, USED SOME FOR CHARITY EXPENSES
Mutalif deposited the money into his own POSB account, a woman's bank account and the account of his registered charity JPA in amounts ranging from S$2,200 to S$39,000.
Of the money he put into his own account, Mutalif spent some of it on personal and household expenses including credit card bills, travel and medical expenses.
The money in JPA's account was used mainly for the charity's operational expenses such as payroll, rental and utilities. As executive director of JPA between August 2010 and August 2011, Mutalif drew a monthly salary of S$7,000.
His offences were in violation of the Mosque Financial Regulations issued by MUIS.
A few months after Mutalif stepped down as chairman, cash collections made to the mosque rose significantly from about S$10,000 to S$19,000 a month to between S$40,000 and S$60,000 per month, Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenneth Chin said.
After this discovery, MUIS filed a police report alleging that Mutalif had misappropriated the mosque's cash collections.
Mutalif's bank account, with a balance of about S$96,000, was frozen by the Commercial Affairs Department in December 2013.
He will be back in court for sentencing on Apr 15.
REFRESHER TRAINING FOR MOSQUE STAFF
MUIS said in a statement after the hearing that it detected financial irregularities at the mosque and referred the matter to police in 2013.
Stressing that it "does not tolerate any financial impropriety" at its mosques, the council said it has conducted refresher training on the Mosque Financial Regulations for mosque staff and members of mosque management boards over the past few years.
MUIS has also put in place regular independent audits on all mosques to ensure compliance with the Mosque Financial Regulations.
"This case should not tarnish the good name and the invaluable contributions of mosque leaders, volunteers and staff, who have been serving their community and congregation selflessly and with amanah (responsibility) through the years," said the council.
"MUIS believes that our mosque sector will continue to give its best for our community and nation."