SINGAPORE - The chairman of the Darussalam Mosque's management board misappropriated more than $370,000 of its cash collections from 2006 to 2013, a district court heard on Tuesday (March 12).
Ab Mutalif Hashim, 58, pleaded guilty to six criminal breach of trust charges involving more than $300,000.
Eight other similar charges linked to the remaining amount will be considered during sentencing.
Ab Mutalif was the board's chairman from 2003 to August 2010, before becoming its voluntary chairman until March 2013.
He was also an office bearer of two registered charities: He was executive director of Just Parenting Association (JPA), aimed at promoting a health family life, and president of a men’s support group, the Association for Devoted and Active Family Men.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenneth Chin told the court on Tuesday that Darussalam Mosque had obtained the cash from worshippers who made their contributions through donation chests and containers.
These were located within the Commonwealth Avenue West mosque during Friday prayer sessions.
The DPP added that after these sessions, Ab Mutalif instructed people, such as the mosque’s volunteers, to bring the chest and containers to his office for “safekeeping”.
Instead, he deposited some of the money into various bank accounts without the authorisation of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) and the mosque’s management board.
Besides his personal bank account, the cash was also unlawfully deposited into one belonging to JPA and another linked to a woman known as Aiffah Ahmad. Court documents did not reveal her ties to Ab Mutalif.
DPP Chin told District Judge Ong Chin Rhu that Ab Mutalif used some of the monies received in his personal account to pay for, among other things, credit card bills, family allowances, travelling and medical expenses.
The DPP added: “The accused had access to Aiffah’s UOB account and regularly withdrew monies from it. The accused had lied to Aiffah that the monies deposited came from his ‘shares’.
“The monies in JPA’s account were used mainly for its operational expenses, including payroll, rental and utilities.”
The court heard that between August 2010 and August 2011, Ab Mutalif drew a monthly salary of $7,000 as JPA’s executive director.
After helping himself to the mosque’s cash collections, the balance was later rightfully deposited into its bank account, according to procedures.
In a statement on Tuesday, Muis said it alerted the police after detecting financial irregularities at the mosque in 2013.
Muis also said that it has procedures in place to ensure good governance in mosques and it also reviews these measures continually to meet national regulatory standards.
It added: "Over the past few years, Muis has conducted refresher training on the mosque financial regulations to mosque staff and members of the mosque management boards to create greater awareness on the importance of good financial management.
"Muis has also put in place regular independent audits on all mosques to ensure compliance with the mosque financial regulations."
Muis said that this case "should not tarnish the good name and the invaluable contributions" of mosque leaders, volunteers and staff, who have been serving their community selflessly through the years.
Ab Mutalif is represented by lawyer Satwant Singh and is now out on bail of $70,000.
He is expected to be sentenced on April 15.
For each count of criminal breach of trust, he could be jailed for up to seven years and fined.