IT engineer jailed for stealing laptops from MOH meant for Covid-19 operations

SINGAPORE - Laptops that were issued to the Ministry of Health (MOH) for its officers to manage the Covid-19 pandemic were instead stolen and sold on Carousell.

Muhammad Fakhrurradzi Mohamed Omar, 25, was sentenced to 11 months' jail on Thursday (Aug 5) after pleading guilty to three charges of theft.

The court heard that Fakhrurradzi had stolen 21 laptops belonging to MOH between Dec 16 last year and Jan 14 as he was in need of money.

He was working for an agency engaged by technology firm NCS and had been deployed to the MOH office at HarbourFront Centre to reformat the laptops, his lawyer Marina Sani said.

The stolen laptops, which were collectively worth around $33,400, were issued to MOH by the Ministry of Finance. Fakhrurradzi made a total of $6,380 from selling most of them through online marketplace Carousell.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Pearly Ang said Fakhrurradzi would take a few laptops each time he accessed the storage room so as not to raise suspicions.

He would keep the laptops in a bag and wait for his shift to end before leaving the office.

Fakhrurradzi then sold the laptops to three buyers he shortlisted from Carousell.

To avoid questions from potential buyers, he told them that the devices were second-hand goods, even though he knew that some of them were brand new.

His offences came to light when MOH's chief information security officer discovered that the laptops were missing after a check. The officer lodged a police report on Jan 15.

The police recovered only two laptops upon his arrest.

In seeking at least a year's jail for Fakhrurradzi, DPP Ang said Fakhrurradzi could enter the storage room unsupervised and opportunistically exploited this opening.

Ms Marina asked the court not to impose a crushing sentence on her client as he had committed theft to meet his family's monthly expenses and deeply regrets his actions.

In sentencing him, district judge Marvin Bay said the court takes a very serious view of the theft of government property as it was paid for with taxpayers' money and the laptops were intended for use in MOH's Covid-19 operations.

He noted that there was premeditation involved as Fakhrurradzi did not take a large number of laptops at one go, but several devices each time.

"There would also be cyber-security concerns given that government-issued laptops will end up in the hands of outsiders," he added.

Fakhrurradzi could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined for each theft charge.