Pakistani man jailed for lying in PR application and submitting fake degree in 1997

SINGAPORE - More than 20 years ago, a Pakistani national applying to be a permanent resident lied in the form that his highest academic qualification was an arts degree from the University of Punjab.

Mohammad Sohail, whose highest educational qualification in reality was the equivalent of the GCE A levels in Singapore, also submitted a forged degree to support his application.

The 51-year-old on Thursday (Aug 27) failed in his appeal to the High Court against a three-week jail sentence handed down by a district court in December last year.

In dismissing the appeal, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said that based on sentencing guidelines for such cases, the starting point was a custodial term of two to four weeks.

The Chief Justice noted that the district judge, in imposing three weeks' jail, had taken into account that Sohail had shown remorse by readily owning up to his wrongdoing.

Sohail first arrived in Singapore in 1995 on an employment pass and married a Singaporean woman the following year.

Some time between September and October 1997, he applied for permanent residency and falsely stated that he held a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Punjab.

To boost his chances, he submitted a bogus degree, which he had obtained from his cousin in Pakistan, with the application.

Court documents state that the academic qualification of the applicant is "one of the material considerations" in the granting of PR status.

Sohail's application was approved in December 1997.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said the offences were uncovered during an internal check. Soheil was first charged in court in September last year, more than 21 years after being granted PR status.

This fact was highlighted by the district judge, to make the point that such deception was difficult to detect as it would take a considerable length of time to get verification from the foreign academic authorities.

On Thursday, defence counsel Mahmood Gaznavi said his client's actions were motivated by his desire to be with his wife and first child, a Singapore citizen, who was born in March 1997.

Sohail subsequently had another two children, who are also Singapore citizens.

Mr Gaznavi argued that his client, who ran his own company, did not rely on his PR status to seek employment or obtain any advantage for his children.

ICA will consider each case carefully before deciding whether to revoke the PR status of a person convicted of offences, a spokesman told ST.

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