SINGAPORE: An officer with the Singapore Police Force (SPF) made use of his position to obtain sexual gratification from women involved in cases he was investigating.
For two counts of corruptly obtaining gratification and two counts of unauthorised computer access, Staff Sergeant Mahendran Selvarajoo was sentenced to two years' jail on Wednesday (Sep 23).
A fifth charge was taken into consideration, and the prosecution withdrew another two charges of possessing obscene material.
Mahendran, 32, was suspended from the force in May last year, SPF previously said.
The court heard that Mahendran joined the force in September 2010 and became an investigation officer, carrying out commercial crime investigations.
In October 2017, Mahendran recorded a statement from a woman involved in a case of shop theft. The woman was not prosecuted but received a stern warning, but Mahendran contacted her in February 2018 over the return of her seized handbag.
He later met her and remained in contact with her. In February 2019, he lied to the woman that her company had contacted the police with queries about the investigations against her.
He met the woman in Ang Mo Kio on Feb 27 last year before taking her to a car park nearby and chatted with her.
Knowing that the woman was worried about the fake queries from her employer, Mahendran asked the woman to have sex with him. The woman declined, saying she was having her period.
He then asked her to perform a sex act on him, which she agreed to as she was worried about her employer's purported queries and wanted Mahendran to help her. She also performed a second sex act on him at his request.
THE SECOND VICTIM
In April last year, he was assigned to a case involving the misuse of credit card details. He took the statement of a woman in connection to the case and gave her his number.
Later that month, even though he was no longer the investigating officer in the woman's case, Mahendran contacted her and said he needed to search her laptop for evidence.
He went to her house, where he presented an altered statement and asked her to sign it, before looking through her laptop and discovering her nude photos inside.
He said he needed to take her device with him for investigations, but he intended to review and copy the contents for his personal purposes, as well as show her that he had the power to seize her laptop.
Later that night on Apr 29, 2019, Mahendran copied six folders containing the woman's personal photos and videos to his own storage device.
In the early hours of the next morning, he picked the woman up in his vehicle and drove her to a car park where he asked her to sit in the back with him, hoping to have sex with her.
He asked her questions about her sexual relationships and kissed her, before the woman performed a sex act on him. "The pair had sexual intercourse," said the prosecutor, adding that the woman had done so as she wanted Mahendran to help her avoid prosecution.
The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) received information in May last year that Mahendran had received sexual gratification from a woman in exchange for helping her avoid prosecution, and began investigations.
Investigations found that Mahendran also recorded a statement of a third woman for a credit card case, before asking for her laptop and phone.
He copied out three sexually explicit videos from her phone to his flash drive, despite knowing that he had no authority to do so.
HE ABUSED HIS AUTHORITY AS A POLICE OFFICER: PROSECUTOR
Deputy Public Prosecutor Charis Low asked for 30 months' jail, saying that Mahendran instead abused his authority and breached the trust placed in him as a police officer.
She said the sentence would deter others who are tempted to abuse their office for personal gain, and "restore the public's faith in the integrity of the SPF".
Defence lawyer Kalidass Murugaiyan said this was a crushing sentence, and higher than what was given to a higher-ranking police officer in a similar case.
He said his client has been a good police officer who did "quite well" in the force, although he conceded that this was eclipsed by the nature of the offences.
He said his client was remorseful and was "not very high up" in the pecking order of the system as a staff sergeant. He also said there had been no obstruction of justice in the case.
District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt agreed with the prosecution's submission for a deterrent jail sentence.
For each charge of corruption, Mahendran could have been jailed for up to five years, fined up to S$100,000, or both. For unauthorised modification of computer content, he could have been jailed for up to three years, fined up to S$10,000, or both.
CPIB said after the hearing that law enforcement officers "have the duty to maintain law and order and conduct themselves with high levels of integrity and discipline".
"Recognising the seriousness and severity of this case, CPIB acted expeditiously to arrest Mahendran on the same day it received information about the offences," it said.
"Initially, Mahendran denied any corrupt intent on his part but the extensive and thorough investigations by CPIB officers uncovered evidence which eventually prompted Mahendran to admit and cooperate with the CPIB officers."
The bureau said the use of digital forensics and credibility assessment tools helped to uncover the extent of Mahendran’s offences and his corrupt intent, including the fact that there was more than one subject from whom he had obtained sexual gratification.
In a statement to CNA, SPF said it has commenced disciplinary proceedings against Mahendran following his conviction. He was suspended in May 2019.
“Officers of the Singapore Police Force are expected to uphold the law and maintain the highest standards of conduct and integrity,” said the spokesperson.
“We deal severely with officers who break the law, including charging them in court.”