CJ sets out sentencing framework for casino fraud

Guidelines for judges based on the level of harm and the offender's culpability

Judges now have sentencing guidelines for casino fraud, through a comprehensive framework set out by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who noted the absence of guidance for offences of cheating at play.

He set the guidelines in a case in which he cut the jail term, from 45 to 38 months, for a member of a Russian syndicate which 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 last April after he pleaded guilty to six charges of cheating at play under the Casino Control Act. He argued he should not be jailed for more than 24 months, going by the sentences meted out in other casino cheating cases.

In a judgment released yesterday, CJ Menon, whose structured approach to sentencing has become a hallmark of his tenure, said he did not think the cases cited by Logachev provided any "reliable reference points" to determine the appropriate sentence.

Among other things, he noted written grounds were issued only in two of the cases, and in neither of them was there an 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 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 depends on factors including the amount cheated and the involvement of a syndicate or a transactional element. He said the involvement of a syndicate was 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 judge will adjust the sentence based on mitigating and aggravating factors specific to each offender.

Logachev was part of a Russian syndicate targeting slot machines made by certain manufacturers in casinos in the United States, Europe and Macau .

In May 2016, he and two accomplices won over $100,000 from Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa casinos. They used smartphones to record the play patterns of certain slot machines. A server would decode the patterns and, with the decoded data, the men would know when to play for a big payout.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2018, with the headline 'CJ sets out sentencing framework for casino fraud'. Print Edition | Subscribe