SINGAPORE - Judges now have sentencing guidelines for casino fraud, through a comprehensive framework set out by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who noted the absence of such guidance for cases in which someone cheats at play.
He laid out the framework in a case in which he cut the jail term, from 45 to 38 months, for a member of a Russian syndicate that had used sophisticated technology to predict the outcomes of slot machines.
Vladislav Logachev, 41, had appealed against his jail term, handed down by a district court in April last year after he pleaded guilty to six charges of cheating at play under the Casino Control Act.
Logachev had argued he should not be jailed for more than 24 months, as the sentences meted out in other casino cheating cases indicated his was manifestly excessive.
In a judgment released on Friday (Jan 19), the Chief Justice - whose structured approach to sentencing has become a hallmark of his tenure - said there had been no guidance to date from the High Court regarding sentencing for cheating at play under the Casino Control Act.
CJ Menon said he he did not think the cases cited by Logachev provided any "reliable reference points" to determine the appropriate sentence.
Among other things, the Chief Justice noted that written grounds were issued only in two of the cases. However, in neither of them was there a "satisfactory attempt" to place the case along the sentencing continuum prescribed by law.
Under the Casino Control Act, cheating at play carries a maximum fine of $150,000 and jail of up to seven years.
In his sentencing guidelines, the Chief Justice set out a matrix of nine sentencing ranges, based on the level of harm - slight, moderate and severe - caused by the offence and whether the level of the offender's culpability was low, medium or high.
This ranged from a fine for slight harm and low culpability, to between five and seven years' jail for severe harm and high culpability.
The level of harm is to be determined by factors including the amount cheated and the involvement of a syndicate or a transactional element. He said he regarded the involvement of a syndicate as an aggravating factor as it " raises the spectre of organised crime and this has deleterious effects on Singapore as a whole".
Factors that determine culpability include the degree of planning and premeditation, the level of sophistication, the duration of offending and the offender's role.
After the degrees of harm and culpability have been identified, the sentencing judge has to adjust the sentence based on mitigating and aggravating factors specific to each offender.
Applying the framework to Logachev, the Chief Justice said his sentence should be 38 months' jail.
Logachev was part of a Russian syndicate operating in casinos in the United States, Europe and Macau, who targeted slot machines made by certain manufacturers.
In May 2016, Logachev and two accomplices won more than $100,000 from Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa casinos using smartphones to record the play patterns of certain slot machines.
The information was uploaded to a server to be decoded and then sent back to the players.
Armed with the decoded data, the players returned to the same machines with the devices, which would alert them to when the next big payout was going to be made. This enabled them to win at those machines between 60 per cent and 65 per cent of the time.
One accomplice, Czech national Radoslav Skubnik, got 22 months' jail, while the other, Andrei Egorov, 33, got 30 months' jail.