Former bank compliance officer jailed 12 weeks for helping loanshark

Koh Chee Tong had incurred a $16,000 gambling debt and turned to loansharks when he had difficulties repaying the loan.
Koh Chee Tong had incurred a $16,000 gambling debt and turned to loansharks when he had difficulties repaying the loan.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A former United Overseas Bank (UOB) compliance officer who conducted unauthorised searches on the bank's computer system in 2013 was jailed for 12 weeks on Monday (Jan 4).

Koh Chee Tong, 30, committed the offences in order to pass the contact numbers of customers to an unlicensed moneylender.

He had pleaded guilty to four charges under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act in November last year.

He also admitted to another 20 counts of the same offence, which were considered during sentencing.

A district court heard that Koh had incurred a $16,000 gambling debt and turned to loansharks when he had difficulties repaying the loan.

He tried to negotiate repayment terms with a loanshark, known only as "Ah King", who told him he would extend the latter's repayment period as well as reduce the interest payable for defaulting on his repayments if Koh provided him the names, NRIC numbers and mobile phone numbers of potential debtors.

Ah King wanted to use the information to expand his customer base.

On Oct 30, 2013, Koh used his staff identification number and password to access UOB's secure computer system, known as AS400. He wrote down the names of several account holders. Two days later, he committed the offences again.

Some of the UOB customers later got harassing telephone calls and text messages from unfamiliar numbers, and at least two police reports were made.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Sanjiv Vaswani had asked for a deterrent jail sentence of six months, citing public interest in preventing crimes that compromise the integrity of the banking and financial sector.

Said DPP Vaswani: "His actions in gaining unauthorised access into the secure system go against the very nature of his work, amounting to a clear abuse of his position, and the degree of trust reposed in him."

In mitigation, Koh's lawyer Kalidass Murugaiyan asked for a fine or a short jail term of not more than six weeks for his client, who is now a security guard with Certis Cisco.

The lawyer said that Ah King had harassed Koh repeatedly and threatened to vandalise his house, even though he had repaid his loan.

In passing sentence, District Judge Jasvender Kaur noted that Koh had no previous convictions, and had pleaded guilty.

She also noted that Koh had quit his job shortly after committing the offences.