SINGAPORE: A veteran Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officer has been sentenced to 18 months’ jail for switching a man's urine sample with his own, in order to avoid having to deal with some paperwork.
Mohamed Hafiz Lan, 41, pleaded guilty to one count of obstructing the course of justice on Monday (Aug 3).
He was one of three CNB officers charged in October last year. His co-accused are Staff Sergeant Abdul Rahman Kadir and Sergeant Muhammad Zuhairi Zainuri. Their cases are still pending.
On Aug 15, 2018, the three officers were deployed to Woodlands Checkpoint. As part of their duties, they were to administer instant urine tests to individuals suspected of consuming drugs, court documents revealed.
At about 9pm that day, officers from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority stopped 32-year-old Singaporean Maung Moe Min Oo and a 26-year-old Thai national while they were entering Singapore.
A swab test revealed that Maung and his female companion could have consumed drugs earlier that day. They were referred to CNB and were supposed to have their urine tested.
Maung - who had taken methamphetamine earlier that day - declined to give a urine sample and asked to speak to Rahman in private.
Rahman brought Muang into an interview room. Zuhairi was also inside the room.
In the interview room, Muang asked Rahman for leniency and help to pass the urine test, saying that he might fail it because he had been in a room with someone who had smoked methamphetamine and may have inhaled some of the fumes.
While Muang and Rahman were discussing the matter, Zuhairi left the room and approached Hafiz. He told Hafiz that Muang did not appear to be cooperating in providing a urine sample.
Knowing that the process to procure urine from Muang might take some time, Zuhairi suggested they tamper with Muang’s urine sample by switching it with another person's. Hafiz agreed.
This would expedite the out-processing of Muang’s departure from the CNB office, with no further action taken.
In his mitigation plea, Hafiz’s lawyer Amarick Gill wrote that Hafiz and Zuhairi did not want to deal with the paperwork to charge Muang for failing to provide a urine sample, so they tampered with it instead.
REPLACING SUSPECT’S SAMPLE WITH HIS
As part of the plan, Hafiz provided his urine sample. He went to the toilet first, urinated inside a bottle, diluted it with water and left it behind a dustbin inside a cubicle.
Hafiz and Rahman later escorted Muang to the toilet. Muang was told to retrieve the bottle from behind the dustbin in the cubicle, provide his own sample but pour it into the toilet sink, and bring Hafiz’s sample out of the toilet. This was close to 1am.
The urine sample was tested and returned negative. Muang then left Singapore with his female companion, whose sample was also negative.
The next day, Muang tried to enter Singapore again and was detained for suspected drug consumption by a different CNB team.
Muang told the team that Rahman had helped him pass his urine test the previous night.
A review of closed-circuit television footage found that Hafiz, Rahman and Zuhairi could have tampered with Muang’s urine sample and the matter was referred to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau.
HAFIZ HAD "UNBLEMISHED CAREER RISING UP THE RANKS": LAWYER
Mr Gill, who had sought a jail term of 12 to 15 months for Hafiz, said that the father-of-three had an “unblemished career rising up the ranks with good performance and conduct” during his employment with CNB.
Hafiz, who had been with CNB for about 21 years, was remorseful and understood that he had committed a “serious and grievous mistake” and that it was a “fall from grace” for him.
Deputy Public Prosecutors (DPPs) Thiagesh Sukumaran and Navin Naidu disagreed, saying that Hafiz had been disciplined several times during his time with CNB.
The two DPPs asked for an 18-month jail term, arguing that the offence was committed by a public officer while on duty and that the ploy was extensively planned.
The officers should not have “prioritise(d) their mere conveniences over public duties”, especially since they had an “integral role” to enforce Singapore’s drug policies, they said, adding there was a need to ensure the case does not undermine Singapore's strict stance against drug consumption and offenders.
A harsher sentence than what would be meted out to ordinary people is also necessary to reflect the gravity of offences committed by law enforcement officers while on the clock, they argued.
In sentencing, the district judge said 18 months was “appropriate” to deter similar cases from happening.
All three officers have been “interdicted from service” since July 2019, CNB said.
For obstructing the course of justice, Hafiz could have been jailed up to seven years, fined, or both.