SINGAPORE: After quitting his job as a staff nurse at a private hospital and struggling to cope with his freelance work, a man turned to borrowing money from loan sharks.
To pay off his debts, he agreed to harass other debtors and roped in a person from Batam to help him, sending the Indonesian national to and from the ferry terminal.
He also instructed a 14-year-old boy to help splash paint on a debtor's door.
For his crimes under the Moneylenders Act, Muhammad Firman Dollah, 28, was sentenced to 13 months and two weeks' jail and three strokes of the cane on Wednesday (Jun 30).
He pleaded guilty to one count of abetting by aiding a moneylender, by instructing the Indonesian national to carry out loan shark harassment.
Another two similar charges were considered in sentencing.
Firman's lawyer Anil Singh Sandhu told the court that his client left his job as a staff nurse at Parkway Shenton in 2018.
He thought he would have more flexibility and be able to spend more time with his two children working as a freelance home nurse. But Firman could not secure enough assignments and ran into financial difficulties, said Mr Anil.
He also moved into a flat with his wife in 2019 and had "a lot of financial constraints". In February last year, Firman borrowed money from a loan shark known only as Carson.
Carson promised him S$8,300 if he helped to harass three debtors by splashing paint on their doors and locking the gates.
Firman contacted his co-accused, a man he knew as Yopi, who lived in Batam. He asked Yopi to carry out the harassment on his behalf in return for a sum of money.
On Feb 13, 2020, Firman bought paint and a bicycle lock from a store and drove to Harbourfront Ferry Terminal with a borrowed vehicle.
HE DROVE TO THE TERMINAL TO MEET HIS CO-ACCUSED
He picked up Yopi, who had arrived on a ferry from Batam to Singapore. Firman then drove to the location provided by Carson and parked the vehicle while Yopi splashed paint on the door and locked the metal gate.
Both men headed to another two locations, but Yopi was unable to carry out the harassment as there were people near the flats.
That same day, Firman drove Yopi back to the terminal so he could return to Batam, Indonesia.
The debtor who had paint splashed on her door called the police and Firman was subsequently arrested.
The prosecutor sought at least 15 months' jail and the mandatory minimum sentence of three strokes of the cane for Firman.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Derek Ee said it was aggravating that Firman had instigated a foreigner to enter Singapore for the purpose of loan shark harassment.
He also has additional charges taken into consideration, including abetting a minor to commit harassment on behalf of an unlicensed moneylender, said Mr Ee.
Defence lawyer Mr Anil sought a year's jail and three strokes of the cane, saying his client admits he had done wrong.
He cited Firman's contributions, such as working with the National University Hospital's serology team during the COVID-19 pandemic and conducting testing operations at migrant workers' dormitories.
He is still a freelance nurse, but now supplements his income as a private hire driver and setting up a small stall selling frozen chicken. He also donated chicken to the public during Ramadan, said Mr Anil.
"Firman has no proclivity to crime, and he acted out of character during this period of time," he added.
The judge allowed Firman to defer his jail term to next month and begin serving it on Jul 21.
Yopi, whose real name is Manopo Bernad Robert, has not been dealt with, court documents stated.