Jail term cut for woman who fled S'pore in 2002

Chinese national who entered S'pore using different identities gets 10-week sentence

A wealthy businesswoman from China who repeatedly entered Singapore using different identities over 12 years yesterday had her 16-week jail term reduced to 10.

Lin Lifen, 40, fled Singapore after being charged in 2002 with using a fake degree to apply for permanent residency.

Lin, who was married to a permanent resident from Canada, first returned as Shuting Lin Grayston using a Canadian passport. Later, she used a Central African Republic diplomatic passport issued under the name Charlize Lin.

Each time, the Chinese national lied in arrival forms that she had never used a passport under a different name to enter Singapore.

In March last year, she was detained at Changi Airport after immigration officers noticed irregularities in her Central African Republic diplomatic passport.

She pleaded guilty to one count of using a forged degree and three counts of making a false declaration earlier this year. Four other false declaration charges were taken into consideration.

After she was sentenced, Lin appealed against the 16-week jail term sought by prosecutors and meted out by District Judge Shawn Ho.

In lowering her prison term to 10 weeks yesterday, Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin said he disagreed with the district judge's finding that Lin's main reason for coming back to Singapore was for financial profit, and not to see her son.

Lin, who has a string of business interests like diamond mining, oil exploration and spas, said the main draw in Singapore was her son.

But in letters sent by her lawyers to the authorities in 2013, Lin also said she wished to move all her business interests here, make Singapore the head office for her oil business and invest $2 million in an apartment. She said she wanted to make Singapore her permanent home, and to see her child, who lives with her former husband here. The couple separated in 2008.

Agreeing with arguments put forth by Lin's lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, Justice Chao said: "In endeavouring to persuade the authorities to permit the appellant to return, it should not at all be surprising that her lawyers would opt to appeal primarily to the head rather than the heart by emphasising the economic benefit that she could bring to Singapore."

"Thus the stress placed on that economic aspect does not suggest that she did not also have a genuine desire to see her son," he said.

The judge also found that Lin's son was not a "mere afterthought". His 12th birthday was on the day after her last attempt to enter Singapore, on March 21 last year.

"While I cannot quite accept the proposition that a non-custodial sentence is invariably or even generally warranted where an offender makes false statements in disembarkation forms in the context of returning to Singapore for reasons of familial relationships, the court must still consider each case on its merits to determine whether it warrants the exercise of some compassion," said Justice Chao.

Between 1996 and 2000, Lin came to Singapore many times on a tourist pass. In 2000, she was issued a dependent's pass under her husband's sponsorship. Lin, who has primary school education, later got a fake bachelor's degree from the Foreign Economics and Trade University in Beijing, as she wanted to get PR status here.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2015, with the headline 'Jail term cut for woman who fled S'pore in 2002'. Print Edition | Subscribe