All he wanted to do was help his friend.
In the four years that Mr Md Yamis Ithnin, 49, had known Razali Samad, 44, they had got along well. They worked together as cleaners, and Mr Yamis was Razali's supervisor.
So when his friend asked for help to be bailed out in May, Mr Yamis obliged. But Razali, who was facing drug-related charges, jumped bail.
Mr Yamis was hauled to court to explain his friend's disappearance, and ended up $5,000 poorer for the experience.
Statistics show that more people are jumping bail, with 122 absconders last year, compared to 99 in 2012.
The New Paper spoke on three occasions recently to Mr Yamis, who earns about $1,600 a month."I've known Razali and worked with him for so long. As his supervisor, I've always known him to be a responsible worker and honest person," he said. "I didn't even stop to think whether I could trust him. I just did."
Razali's bail was set at $15,000, and Mr Yamis agreed to stand surety for him despite not having the money. Bails up to $15,000 generally need not be paid up front in cash.
Razali promised Mr Yamis that he would turn up for his court hearing. Mr Yamis said he kept in touch with Razali via text messages and phone calls. But a month later, Razali jumped bail. Mr Yamis, who is married with a son, 20, and daughter, 19, said he was in Bandung, Indonesia, with his family at the time.
"I called the court to check if he had shown up. When they said no, my heart sank, and I knew I was in trouble," he said. Mr Yamis was summoned to court on July 3. He told District Judge Eddy Tham that he was unable to pay the $15,000.
The judge gave him a month to hunt down Razali and hand him over to the police. Mr Yamis told TNP after the hearing: "I have no choice. From a friend, I have to become a bounty hunter."
Mr Yamis said he was confident of locating Razali, as he had heard from friends that the fugitive was hiding in a friend's flat in Woodlands. For the next month, his son drove him from their Tampines home to Woodlands.
"We would walk around for hours, comb the area, and ask our friends if they know where Razali was," he said. Mr Yamis claimed he nearly caught Razali once.
"I saw him at a bazaar in Woodlands and shouted out his name. He ran off immediately, and I chased him. "But I tripped over a wooden box and injured my left knee. I then lost him," he said.
Mr Yamis appeared in court, limping, on Aug 14, and pleaded for more time to locate Razali, but Judge Tham turned down his request.
The judge asked him how much of the $15,000 he could forfeit. Mr Yamis, who was not represented, offered to pay $500.
That did not go down well with the judge, who asked whether that was a reasonable amount. He said the bail forfeit could not be so low, as it would make the bail process meaningless.
He told Mr Yamis: "Don't take up the responsibility if you don't have the financial means to do so. If you have no money, you have no business to be somebody's bailor."
Mr Yamis said in mitigation that his wife did not know what he had done and asked for a lenient punishment. Judge Tham ordered him to forfeit $5,000 and pay the amount in monthly instalments of $500.
A warrant of arrest has been issued for Razali. Said Mr Yamis: "I do regret (bailing him out). But even if I find him, there's nothing I can do now. I'll just focus on paying the $500 every month." Criminal lawyer Rajan Supramaniam said this was a classic case of a person agreeing to be a bailor without fully understanding the implications.
"You should post bail only for people like your very close friends or relatives. Never post bail for an acquaintance," he said.
Lawyer Ravinderpal Singh said most of the bailors he represented were parents of children who absconded after they were caught for drug-related offences.
He said it was unlikely that Mr Yamis would get back his forfeited $5,000, even if Razali were arrested.
Criminal lawyer Chen Chee Yen said Mr Yamis should have done more than just make phone calls to his friend to ensure he did not jump bail. But Mr Rajan said it was not easy for bailors to ensure the accused make it for every court hearing.
"There could be like 15 or so court dates. Bailors may have to work and may not be able to accompany the accused to court on every occasion."
But he stressed: "The moment you spot something amiss with the accused, the bailor can apply to be discharged. Otherwise, it's a heavy price to pay for trusting someone."
ABOUT THE BAIL PROCESS
When a person is arrested, the police may offer bail depending on the offence.
The suspect is charged in court. The police bail is passed on to the court. The bailor stands surety for the accused to attend the court hearings. For bail amounts below $15,000, the bailor generally need not pay the cash up front. The judge can decide that the bail amount be split between more than one bailor.
The accused must turn up in court for as many hearings as required. The bailor(s) may discharge themselves at any point.
The case concludes. The bail money deposited with the court will be returned to the bailor(s), regardless of whether the accused is found guilty or not.
If the accused fails to show up for a court session, a warrant of arrest will be issued against him. The bailor has to attend a hearing to give cause why the full bail money should not be forfeited.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF A BAILOR:
A bailor's key responsibility is to ensure that the accused attends all court hearings at the required time and date until the case has been concluded.
The bailor must also ensure that the accused does not leave Singapore without the court's permission.
If the accused fails to attend a court hearing, the full bail amount pledged as security may be forfeited.
OTHER CASES OF PEOPLE JUMPING BAIL
2011: A family was ordered to forfeit $85,000 out of the $100,000 bail after drug trafficker Irfan Ahmed Khan, 29, skipped town and abandoned his pregnant fiancee.
Irfan was eventually convicted in 2012 of eight charges, including absconding and leaving Singapore without a valid passport, drug trafficking and attacking three police officers.
He was sentenced to a total of 22 years in jail and 15 strokes of the cane.
2010: Singaporean football match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal is wanted in Singapore for jumping bail in 2010.
He fled Singapore after being sentenced to five years in jail for assaulting a law enforcement official over a parking ticket. He was arrested in Finland in 2011 and served one year of a two-year sentence for immigration offences.
He is now in Hungary, where he is under police protection, to help in match-fixing investigations.
The Singapore police are exploring ways to secure his return to serve out his sentence.
2004: The wife of former religious teacher Muhamad Mohamad Ishak collapsed in court after her husband, whom she posted bail for, failed to appear in court to face drug charges. The court forfeited the $120,0000 bail.
Mohamad was arrested seven years later, and jailed for 5½ years and given five strokes of the cane.
This article was first published on September 05, 2014.
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