Man fined $7,000 for acting as secretary of Hindu temple despite being disqualified

Ratha Krishnan Selvakumar was a key board member of Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, a registered charity that, in 2018, was found to have been mismanaged.
Ratha Krishnan Selvakumar was a key board member of Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, a registered charity that, in 2018, was found to have been mismanaged.

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 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 that, in 2018, was found by the Commissioner of Charities (COC) to have been mismanaged.

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

He had inflated the monthly salaries 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 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 secretary of the temple in 2011, is believed to be the first person prosecuted for the offence since the Act was amended in 2018.

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

After his conviction, 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 court heard that Selvakumar had tendered a resignation letter 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 and/or fined up to $10,000.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 22, 2020, with the headline 'Man fined $7,000 for acting as secretary of Hindu temple despite being disqualified'. Print Edition | Subscribe