Ex-bank officer jailed for misuse of database

Former bank officer Koh Chee Tong had incurred a $16,000 gambling debt and had turned to loan sharks when he had difficulties repaying the loan.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Pressured over an outstanding loan from an unlicensed moneylender, a former United Overseas Bank (UOB) compliance officer made unauthorised searches on the bank's computer system in 2013, to pass on customers' details to the loan shark.

Koh Chee Tong, 30, had incurred a $16,000 gambling debt and had turned to loan sharks when he had difficulties repaying the loan.

When he tried to negotiate repayment terms with a loan shark known only as "Ah King", the latter said he would extend Koh's repayment period as well as reduce the interest payable for defaulting on his repayments if Koh gave him the names, NRIC numbers and mobile phone numbers of potential debtors.

Ah King wanted to use the data to expand his customer base.

On Oct 30, 2013, Koh used his staff identification number and password to access UOB's secure computer system.

He wrote down the names of several account holders. Two days later, he committed the offences again.

Some of the UOB customers later received harassing telephone calls and text messages from unfamiliar numbers, and at least two police reports were made.

Yesterday, Koh was jailed for 12 weeks after he earlier pleaded guilty to four charges under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act.

He had also admitted to another 20 counts of the same offence, which were taken into consideration during sentencing.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Sanjiv Vaswani had asked for a deterrent jail term of six months in total, citing public interest in preventing crimes that compromise the integrity of the banking and financial sector.

Said DPP Vaswani: "His actions in gaining unauthorised access to the secure system go against the very nature of his work, amounting to a clear abuse of his position, and the degree of trust reposed in him."

In mitigation, Koh's lawyer Kalidass Murugaiyan asked for a fine or a short jail term of not more than six weeks for his client, who is now a security guard with Certis Cisco.

The lawyer said that Ah King had harassed Koh repeatedly and threatened to vandalise his house, even though he had repaid his loan.

In passing sentence, District Judge Jasvender Kaur noted that Koh had no previous convictions, and had pleaded guilty.

She also noted that he had quit his job shortly after committing the offences.

The judged sentenced him to six weeks' jail per charge, with two of the terms to run consecutively.

He could have been jailed for two years and fined $5,000 per charge.


This article was first published on January 5, 2016.
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