Ex-warder jailed for trying to get bribes from inmate, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Ex-warder jailed for trying to get bribes from inmate

A now retired prison officer who tried but failed to obtain bribes totalling $133,000 from an inmate was sentenced to three years and two weeks’ jail on Feb 23.

In November 2023, District Judge John Ng had after a trial convicted former senior chief warder Kobi Krishna Ayavoo, 57, of eight charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The judge also found him guilty of two charges under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act, as Kobi had instigated two of his then colleagues to gain unauthorised access to their workplace computer platform – the Prisons Operations and Rehabilitation System (Ports) – in July 2017.

Ports contains confidential information such as inmates’ identification card numbers.

Kobi, who was suspended from work from July 2017, retired in December 2022.

In the graft-related offences, Kobi had attempted to obtain the monies from Chong Keng Chye, then 48, who was behind bars at the time for one of the worst child abuse cases in Singapore.

He had battered his girlfriend’s seven-year-old son for more than seven months until the child died in 1999. He also abused the boy’s two sisters.

In 2005, Chong was sentenced to 20 years of preventive detention, with nine strokes of the cane. 

In preventive detention, a repeat offender aged over 30 receives a substantial period of imprisonment to protect the public. The detention order can last up to 20 years.

In her submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutor Magdalene Huang said that Kobi had tried to obtain the bribes from Chong over eight separate occasions between September 2015 and March 2016, in exchange for facilitating the inmate’s request to transfer out of an area named Cluster A1 in Changi Prison.

On each occasion, Kobi tried to obtain between $3,000 and $42,000 from Chong, who did not hand him any money.

Among other things, Kobi asked for $42,000 in September 2015 to renovate his home, and requested $25,000 for “urgent use” in March 2016.

The DPP said in her submissions that Chong had earlier told Kobi that he wished to have a change in environment while behind bars, to stay with three others and to work.

She added that Kobi first asked Chong for money in September 2015, stating that he could help the inmate.

During the trial, Chong testified that he knew Kobi did not have the capability or the authority to help him transfer out of A1.

According to court documents, Chong told the court that the matter needed to go through the prison’s “Intelligence”.

Chong testified that Kobi then told him that one of the Intelligence officers was his friend, who could help the inmate.

Between January and March 2016, Chong went through a medical review, but was not transferred out even though he was found to be fit.

Chong testified that when he asked Kobi about the matter, the latter replied: “The things I ask you to do, you did not do it for me.”

On July 14, 2016, Chong was finally transferred to an area described as “A3” in court documents. However, the reasons for the transfer were not stated in his records. Court documents did not disclose the differences between A1 and A3.

DPP Huang told the court that Chong was a credible witness, stressing that he had recorded the eight occasions on which Kobi attempted to obtain bribes from him.

Chong had also noted down the mobile phone and bank account numbers that Kobi had provided.

The prosecutor said: “There was no way (Chong) could have known about the accused’s financial problems or obtained the mobile phone and bank account numbers unless the accused had told him; and there was no other reason for the accused to have given him the information except that he wanted bribes.”

Chong later reported Kobi to the Singapore Prison Service, and had felt that he had more to lose than gain by doing so.

DPP Huang said that in prison, there is a stigma attached to being labelled a “snitch” or tattle-tale, adding that Chong indeed suffered repercussions for making the report.

Chong had earlier said: “Many friends have distanced themselves from me… Even for my own gang, they have ignored me.”

Kobi, who was represented by lawyer Skandarajah Selvarajah, denied asking Chong for money on any of the eight occasions.

He had claimed that he did not speak to Chong about his financial matters, and alleged that Chong had lied in order to be transferred out of A1.

As for Kobi’s offences under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act, the DPP said that on July 24, 2017, he instigated two of his then colleagues – Mr Firoz Khan Shaik Fazaluddin and Mr Mohamed Sarraj Shadul Hameed – to gain unauthorised access to Ports.

He had asked Mr Khan for Chong’s inmate number and requested for unspecified information from Mr Sarraj.

In March 2018, Mr Khan, then a staff sergeant attached to Changi Prison’s Estate Management Office, was fined $4,000 after he accessed Ports for Kobi.

During the trial, Mr Sarraj testified that he had turned down Kobi’s request and alerted his superior.

On Feb 23, Mr Skandarajah told the court that his client may be filing an appeal but did not state if it will be against his conviction, sentence or both. Kobi’s bail has been set at $15,000.

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