Former secretary of Hindu temple fined $7,000 for continuing to act in position while disqualified

After his conviction in 2017, Ratha Krishnan Selvakumar continued to act as the temple's secretary.
After his conviction in 2017, Ratha Krishnan Selvakumar continued to act as the temple's secretary.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A man disqualified as secretary of a Hindu temple for being convicted of offences involving elements of dishonesty was fined $7,000 in court for continuing to play the role for over a year.

Ratha Krishnan Selvakumar, 65, had pleaded guilty on Thursday (Nov 19) to one count of acting as a board member of a charity despite being disqualified.

He was a key board member of Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, a registered charity located in Serangoon Road which the Commissioner of Charities (COC) in 2018 found to have been mismanaged.

On May 9, 2017, Selvakumar was convicted of 10 offences and fined $80,000.

He had inflated the monthly salary of various foreign workers, whom he employed in a company he owned, when applying to the Ministry of Manpower for their work passes.

Under the Charities Act, any person who has previously been convicted of offences such as fraud, corruption, bribery and deception is disqualified from acting in the capacity of a governing board member, key officer or trustee of any charity.

Selvakumar, who was appointed as the secretary of the temple in 2011, is believed to be the first person prosecuted for the offence since the Act was amended in 2018.

A member of the temple's governing board, he oversaw its daily operations and was also one of the three people authorised to conduct financial transactions on behalf of the temple.

After his conviction in 2017, Selvakumar continued to act as the temple's secretary, and was even paid $10,450 monthly from July 2017.

His stint ended on April 30, 2018, when the COC barred key board members of the temple - including Selvakumar - from their posts after an eight-month probe found "severe mismanagement" in how its money was managed.

In a statement issued then, the Commissioner noted that an inquiry found a "severe lack of care and prudence" by key board members as guardians of the temple's charitable assets between January 2011 and July 2014, with internal controls nearly "non-existent".

Such behaviour had put the temple's funds and assets at risk.

The probe found many instances where payments given by the temple were not adequately substantiated with sufficient supporting documents.

These payments exceeded $500,000.

The Commissioner also appointed three additional board members to the temple's management to put in place proper governance and internal controls.

They are Mr Shekaran K. Krishnan, a partner at Ernst & Young, Mr Ram an Rajakanth, executive director of Rainbow Across Borders and Mr Baskaran Ambikapathy, a financial controller.

A spokesman for the Hindu Endowments Board had said then that the board assisted the temple's newly appointed and remaining management committee members in every way possible to put in place the proper controls.

On Thursday, the court heard that Selvakumar had tendered a letter of resignation to the temple on May 7, 2018.

District Judge Carol Ling also took into consideration one similar charge during sentencing.

For his offence, Selvakumar could have been jailed for up to three years, or fined up to $10,000, or both.