Fine for engineer who hacked into system, causing MBS blackout

SINGAPORE - An engineer who caused a partial blackout at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) in 2010 escaped jail time on Thursday after the High Court allowed part of his appeal.

Leslie Liew Cheong Wee, 37, a Malaysian, had his sentence on one of six charges reduced from two weeks' jail and a $15,000 fine to a $3,000 fine.

Justice Choo Han Teck said in his judgment that the charge alleged that damage was caused by Liew's actions.

But Justice Choo pointed out that the charge did not state details of the damage nor was evidence produced at trial to prove that damage was caused.

Liew was found guilty last year by a district court on six computer misuse charges.

He was fined $3,000 each for five charges, and on the sixth, he was sentenced to two weeks' jail and a $15,000 fine.

He appealed against both conviction and sentence.

But Justice Choo was not convinced that he had accidentally caused the blackout and dismissed his appeal against conviction. 

Liew was employed by Power Automation, a sub-contractor engaged to set up a system that manages electrical power at the MBS integrated resort, including the casino.

Between May 9 and 12 in 2010, Liew hacked into the system from his home. At the time, he had quit his job and was serving notice.

On May 12, there was a blackout at the casino, affecting all levels from the basement to Level 3 of the northern section. His lawyer had argued he was authorised to access the system and had accidentally caused the blackout.

But Justice Choo ruled out an accidental activation of the command, pointing out that an elaborate procedure was required to execute the instruction to cause the blackout. The "inescapable conclusion" was that Liew had acted deliberately to cause the blackout, said the judge.

Turning to the sentence, he said damage was not proven in the sixth charge, which provides for a harsher punishment.

Besides the prosecution not giving particulars of the damage, Justice Choo noted the trial judge's point that the blackout would have marred MBS' reputation. But this was not defined as damage under the Computer Misuse Act, he said. He then reduced the charge and held that the sentence should be the same as that for the other five charges. Liew declined to comment on the new verdict.

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