Manager of NGO admits inflating Hari Raya expenses

The manager of a Malay-Muslim non-governmental organisation (NGO) conspired with others to inflate the expenses incurred in organising Hari Raya light-up and celebrations to deceive government departments into giving it more money.

Over two years, Gazaly Malek, a Canadian national, and his co-conspirators dishonestly induced three government organisations to disburse $188,000 more than it had spent to Majlis Pusat Singapura (MPS).

Yesterday, he was the first among four men to plead guilty to cheating. The case against Saharudin Kassim, 54, Abdul Ghani Tahir, 52, and Salleh Sam, 50, is set for trial today.

Gazaly, 60, faces 10 charges, including two of falsifying the income and expenditure statements.

The charges he admitted to involved the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), which gave $90,000, the Singapore Totalisator Board (Tote Board), which gave $49,680, and the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD), which awarded $199,831, to MPS.

MPS has organised the Hari Raya light-up in Geylang since 1996.

In 2011 and 2012, it appointed MCC Events and Production, whose sole proprietor is married to Salleh, to organise the event.

The court heard it was Saharudin, the secretary-general and subsequently president of MPS, who hatched the plan to inflate its submissions to the funding agencies to induce them to provide their maximum amount of grants.

Gazaly, Ghani, the then finance secretary, and Salleh, a manager of MCC and 7M Natural Sources, agreed to help carry out the plan. With each playing a role, they inflated the figures in invoices provided by MCC and two other companies involved in the light-up, Lemonseed and Global Astir, to be submitted for funding.

Lemonseed's directors were Ghani and the MPS deputy president between 2011 and 2012, Haji Nasir Aman. Global Astir is fully owned by MPS.

Gazaly's job was to type up the invoices on his computer.

Seeking a total sentence of six to eight months' jail, Deputy Public Prosecutor Gordon Oh said the conspiracies involved a planned and sustained deception of multiple government departments.

He said Gazaly played a "key role'' as he facilitated the preparation of the supporting documents and statement of accounts that he knew were deceptive.

Pleading for a fine, Gazaly's lawyer, Mr Amarjit Singh, said his client played a subservient or peripheral role. Gazaly was assured by Saharudin and other exco members that it was all right to create invoices as it was a regular practice in past Hari Raya light-ups.

"I would describe him as an underling in this whole conspiracy,'' he said.

District Judge Adam Nakhoda will sentence him next Monday. The maximum penalty is three years' jail and a fine on each charge.

This article was first published on May 5, 2016.
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