Surveyor's jail term for corruption tripled

Surveyor's jail term for corruption tripled

A MARINE surveyor whose job was to inspect ships before they berthed, but asked for bribes to omit safety breaches in his report, yesterday had his jail term for corruption tripled from two months to six.

Syed Mostofa Romel, 50, was caught red-handed last May in a sting operation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), in which safety breaches were planted on a vessel and the dollar bills handed to Romel were marked.

The Bangladeshi was sentenced to two months' jail by a district court last month.

The prosecution appealed to the High Court, arguing that the original sentence was "unduly lenient" and did not reflect the seriousness of the danger posed by his corrupt acts.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon agreed. "This type of corruption is antithetical to everything Singapore stands for," he said as he upped the jail term for Romel, who was due to be released on Sunday.

Romel was an associate consultant with a marine surveying firm whose job was to inspect vessels before they were allowed to be docked at port terminals.

The checks include making sure that the documentation was in order and that the vessel was seaworthy.

A ship classified as low or medium risk would generally be allowed to dock. If a ship was classified as high-risk, the operator would have to rectify the problems identified before the ship was allowed to be docked, thus incurring delays and additional costs.

On Mar 10 last year, after inspecting the tanker Torero at a terminal off Jurong Island, Romel told the captain and chief engineer that he had made several observations which would result in a high-risk certification.

The captain disagreed, saying they were minor issues. Money could fix the problems, Romel told him.

The captain offered US$500 (S$680) but Romel demanded US$3,000. Romel then omitted the high-risk observations in his inspection report.

On May 27, CPIB launched an operation to nab Romel, using the same vessel, this time deliberately prepared with safety breaches, and with Romel assigned again to inspect it.

True to form, Romel raised the breaches to the captain, who handed him US$3,000 in marked bills. When Romel returned to shore with the cash, he was immediately arrested by CPIB officers.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Grace Lim argued that Romel should be jailed for six to eight months as his corrupt actions were detrimental to public safety and Singapore's reputation as a marine services hub.

Romel's lawyer, Mr Thong Chee Kun, argued that no actual harm was caused; neither was evidence produced to show the potential harm.

This article was first published on March 27, 2015.
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