SINGAPORE - A police officer who obtained bribes totalling $35,000 - believed to be the largest taken by a cop - to help a foreigner avoid being prosecuted for insulting modesty offences was jailed on Thursday (Oct 13).
Woo Poh Liang, 29, who has been suspended from duty since January 2015, had admitted to corruptly getting $25,000 from Filipino Angelo Salvador Beltran, 45, at a taxi stand near Outram Park MRT station on Sept 17, 2014, and another $10,000 at Clementi police station's interview room the same day.
He had also admitted to six charges of buying illegal 4-D lottery tickets, placing bets with a bookmaker on the 2014 World Cup and acting as a runner for a bookmaker.
Twelve other charges were considered.
The court heard that Woo was investigating Beltran, who had been caught red-handed taking an upskirt video at Jurong East MRT station on May 22 that year.
Although a large number of upskirt videos were found on Beltran's devices, Woo suggested writing in Beltran's statement on Sept 10 that he had taken just five of them. Beltran went with the figure as he understood Woo was trying to do something favourable for him.
When Beltran went to the police station on Sept 16, Woo asked if they could trust each other. He told Beltran that his case was very serious. He asked him for $100,000, saying his father was sick with cancer.
When Beltran said he had only $35,000, Woo asked for all the money that he had.
The next day, Beltran withdrew $25,000 and $10,000 from two bank accounts. Beltran handed the $25,000 in an envelope to Woo at a taxi stand. Beltran intended to give $10,000 to his wife so she could take their children out of Singapore, as he was afraid of what Woo might do.
Later that day, Beltran texted Woo to say that he was required to travel to the United States for training the following week. Woo told him to bring a letter from his company to the police station.
When Beltran arrived, Woo told him that he could not get his passport back. Woo brought Beltran to an interview room and asked him how much more money he had. When Beltran said he only had $10,000 left, Woo asked for the sum as well so that he would help Beltran with his case.
District Judge Kamala Ponnampalam sentenced Woo to 31 months and four weeks' jail, a $20,000 fine and ordered him to pay a penalty of $35,000 for the bribes received.
She said he had brought irreparable damage to the public confidence in the law enforcement system, noting that the facts of the case were " particularly egregious''.
Woo, she said, was in a position of power and was able to influence the outcome of the investigations through his recommendations.
But his recommendation that Beltran be given a warning for upskirt offences did not come to fruition as it was rejected by the Public Prosecutor.
Woo subverted the course of justice and investigation when he recorded Beltran's statement. The judge said there was "actual suppression'' of the due investigative process after Beltran had been caught red-handed.
"Beltran was a foreign national here in Singapore with no support. He was helpless and dependent on the accused for helping him for a good outcome of his case,'' she said.
What was more aggravated, she said, was that Woo caused Beltran to effectively wipe out all his savings.
Woo's lawyer, Mr Nakoorsha A.K.(assigned), said his client, who has two young children, supports his aged parents who are unemployed. His father suffers from serious illnesses such as kidney failure and nasal cancer.
He said Woo has received the Commissioner's commendations and commander's awards while he was a police officer.
Beltran was recently given a warning for corruption. It is not known if he will be charged with insulting the modesty of a woman.