Ex-SCDF director cleared of misappropriating iPads

Mr Jeganathan repeatedly told NCS executives he would pay for the iPads and had made queries about the price, the judge noted.
Mr Jeganathan repeatedly told NCS executives he would pay for the iPads and had made queries about the price, the judge noted.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Judge not fully convinced of his truthfulness, but appeal raised 'ample doubt' in the case

A former senior civil servant, originally sentenced to 10 weeks' jail last year for misappropriating two iPads, was acquitted by the High Court yesterday after a successful appeal.

Mr Jeganathan Ramasamy, 65, who was director of technology at the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), had received two iPads from IT vendor NCS in 2011.

He gave one to his daughter and sold the other to SCDF's then senior director of emergency services for $200. Each was worth $939.

The prosecution, which brought two charges against him for criminal breach of trust, contended that the two devices were on loan to be used to test mobile apps that NCS was developing for the SCDF.

But Mr Jeganathan, who left SCDF in 2012, argued that they were personal purchases, for which he had yet to make payment.

At his appeal, his lawyer Sanjiv Rajan argued that his client was under the mistaken impression that the NCS employees, who were entitled to a staff discount on the devices, had agreed to help him buy the iPads for his personal use.

In acquitting Mr Jeganathan, Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon found "inconsistencies and gaps" in both the prosecution's and defence's cases, suggesting that "the whole truth of the matter lies somewhere in between".

He said while he was "not fully convinced that the appellant was wholly truthful", what matters is that "ample doubt" has been raised in the prosecution's case.

He noted that Mr Jeganathan had repeatedly told NCS executives he would pay for the iPads and had made queries about the price. "Had the two iPad2s been provided for official purposes for the SCDF... there would be no reason why he would have been concerned about the issue of payment," he said.

He noted that NCS did not load any apps into the iPads, contrary to the prosecution's case that the devices were for testing use. He said it did not make sense for Mr Jeganathan to sell one iPad to a senior officer in the same organisation if he had thought it was SCDF property.

The judge addressed a key piece of evidence used to convict Mr Jeganathan - a series of text messages he exchanged with NCS' then group general manager Wong Soon Nam.

In a text sent after he received the devices, Mr Jeganathan told Mr Wong to "tell me the amount I have to pay". Mr Wong replied that "the iPad2 is meant for all the new mobile apps that we are rolling out for SCDF and for you to trial".

The judge said he did not think this pointed conclusively to Mr Jeganathan's guilt. He noted that Mr Wong phoned Mr Jeganathan, who testified that Mr Wong told him during the call to try the iPads first and discuss the price later.

Mr Wong initially testified that no such call took place, but when confronted with the call records, said he could not remember the contents of the conversation.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2016, with the headline 'Ex-SCDF director cleared of misappropriating iPads'. Print Edition | Subscribe