Jail terms cut for couple who lied they lost their Singapore passports

An appeals court on Monday reduced the jail terms for a couple who lied to the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur that they had lost their passports.

Zunaidi Jaafar, 37, and his wife Idya Nurhazlyn Ahmad Khir, 30, made the false declarations while applying for "documents of identity" in place of their passports.

The passports were not lost but retained, along with those of six other family members, by a resort in Malaysia after they had failed to settle their bill.

Earlier this year, in the district court, Zunaidi pleaded guilty to making a false statement and was jailed for six weeks. His wife pleaded guilty to two charges of the same offence, as well as two separate charges of cheating, and was sentenced to five months' jail.

On Monday, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon reduced the sentences to three weeks and 41/2 months respectively, agreeing with defence lawyer Derek Kang that the original penalties, apart from one of Idya Nurhazlyn's cheating offences, were "manifestly excessive".

The judge said Zunaidi had only been the "follower" while his wife was the "driving force" behind the plan. But he rejected Idya Nurhazlyn's claim that she had been "under some acute strain".

"The appellants' actions... allowed a hotel employee to retain eight genuine Singapore passports and created the opportunity for these passports to be abused", the judge noted, adding that this was not "some technical offence".

In 2010, together with six other family members, the couple had left the resort without the passports and put up at another relative's home in Subang Jaya.

On July 21 that year, Idya Nurhazlyn reported to the Malaysian police that she and her family members had lost their passports. The group then applied for the documents from the High Commission. Zunaidi was not present, as he had been jailed for two weeks by the Malaysian authorities for overstaying. He applied on July 30 and also lied in the declaration that he had lost his passport.

Idya Nurhazlyn also cheated her aunt of $1,800, and paid for $10,509 worth of products from a Sony distributor with a dud cheque.

Chief Justice Menon on Monday allowed her appeal against the sentence for the first but dismissed the other. The maximum penalty for giving false statements is 10 years' jail and a $10,000 fine, while that for cheating is three years' jail and a fine.