What are the Penalties for Committing Forgery in Singapore?

Last updated on February 6, 2024

Forgery – the act of fraudulently creating or changing a document to suit your needs – comes in different forms.

It can range from a medical doctor forging a medical certificate in order to work at another private clinic, to forging loan agreements so as to cause one party to wrongly disburse a large sum of money to you.

This article discusses the offence of forgery in Singapore, the penalties for committing forgery, and what you can do if someone forges your signature or document.

Forgery and Elements of the Offence

Under section 463 of the Penal Code, a person commits forgery if he makes a false document or electronic record (or just part of it), with the intent to:

  • Cause damage or injury to the public or to any person;
  • Support any claim or title;
  • Cause any person to part with property;
  • Enter into any contract (whether express or implied); or
  • Commit fraud, or allow fraud to be committed.

Specifically, the following are scenarios that constitute the making of a false document or electronic record:

1. A person dishonestly or fraudulently:

  • Makes, signs, seals or executes a document or a part of it;
  • Makes any electronic record or part of the record;
  • Affixes any electronic signature on any electronic record; or
  • Makes any mark denoting the execution of a document or the authenticity of an electronic signature,

with the intention of making the document or record look believably authentic or made by someone who actually had not exercised their authority to make that document or record.

2. A person alters a document or electronic record dishonestly or fraudulently, without authority to do so, after the document or record has been made by him or another person. It does not matter whether that other person is still living or dead at the time of alteration.

3. A person dishonestly or fraudulently causes someone to seal, execute or alter a document or electronic record, including the affixing of a signature on the record. This is while knowing that the person he caused to do the act cannot or does not know the contents of such document or record because of intoxication, unsoundness of mind, or deception.

What are the Penalties for Forgery?

The following are the penalties that correspond to specific acts of forgery:

Acts of Forgery Penalty Penal Code Provision
Forgery (without special circumstances) Jail for up to 4 years, or a fine, or both Section 465
Forgery of a record of a court of justice, or a register kept by a public servant in his official capacity (birth, baptism, marriage, etc.) Jail for up to 10 years and a fine Section 466
Forgery of a valuable security or a will or an authority to adopt a child Jail for up to 15 years and a fine Section 467
Forgery for the purpose of cheating Jail for up to 10 years and a fine Section 468
Forgery for the purpose of harming the reputation of another person Jail for up to 5 years and a fine Section 469
Forgery (counterfeiting) of seal, plate or other such instrument, for the purpose of forging a valuable security, will, or authority to adopt a child Jail for up to 15 years and a fine Section 472
Any other forgery (counterfeiting) of seal, plate or other such instrument Jail for up to 10 years and a fine Section 473
Making or possessing equipment which has been specifically designed or adapted for the making of false instruments Jail for up to 5 years, or a fine, or both Section 473A
Making or possessing equipment which has been specifically designed or adapted for the making of false instruments, with the intent to prejudice someone else Jail for up to 10 years, or a fine, or both Section 473B
Having possession of document or record known to be forged, with intent to use it as genuine Jail for up to 10 years and a fine

If the document relates to a valuable security, will, or authority to adopt a child:

Jail for up to 15 years and a fine

Section 474
Fraudulent cancellation, destruction, or defacement of a will (or attempt to) Jail for up to 15 years and a fine Section 477
Falsification of documents, records or accounts that belong to or is in possession of their employer Jail  for up to 10 years, or fine, or both Section 477A
Forging or counterfeiting currency notes or bank notes Jail for up to 20 years and a fine Section 489A

Aggravating and mitigating factors that may affect the forgery sentence

Certain aggravating factors connected to the commission of forgery may be cited by the prosecution to support a longer or maximum jail time, depending on the kind of forgery offence committed. Some examples of aggravating factors include:

  • Absconding while on bail
  • Participation in a criminal syndicate
  • Number of forgery victims
  • Value of the sum embezzled as a result of forged documents

However, if a person has been found guilty of forgery, his defence lawyer may also make a plea in mitigation seeking for a lighter sentence. A mitigation plea may include several factors such as:

  • Personal background of the offender
  • Presence of remorse
  • Potential for restitution
  • Cooperation with the police and authorities
  • Proven prior history of good character

Issuance of a prohibition order

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) may issue prohibition orders against financial advisers or financial institutions that have been convicted of forgery, for the following purposes:

  1. To prohibit them from performing regulated activities under the Securities and Futures Act or the Financial Advisers Act; and
  2. To prohibit them from participating (whether directly or indirectly) in the management of any capital market services or financial advisory firms, including acting as a director or becoming a substantial shareholder thereof.

For example, a 3-year prohibition order was issued against a UBS banker after he forged documents and falsified company emails in order to deceive UBS into believing that his clients were tax-compliant.

Issuance of a search warrant 

The court may issue a search warrant if it has reason to believe, during the investigation of a possible forgery, that a place is being used for the storage, sale or manufacture of any forged documents, or is being used to conceal or keep any instruments used to create forgeries.

A police officer investigating a forgery may also, without a search warrant, search or cause a search to be made for a document or other thing. This is if he considers the document or thing to be necessary for his investigation and has reason to believe that the person in possession of it is unlikely to produce that document or thing, or is likely to have it removed, or if it is unknown who has possession of it.

However, a search warrant is still necessary if the conduct of the search connected to a forgery will be done by other authorised persons who are not police officers under appropriate circumstances.

If during the search, suspected instruments for forgery are found, the police officer or the person authorised by a search warrant to conduct the search may seize such instruments and convey them to the court, or to guard them on the spot until the offender is taken into custody.

Is Forgery an Arrestable Offence?

Forgery is an arrestable offence. This means that the police are empowered to arrest a person who is alleged to have committed forgery without first obtaining a warrant of arrest. Once the suspect has been arrested, it is up to the police or the court to decide whether to release them on bail.

Will Being Convicted of Forgery Leave a Criminal Record?

Yes, if you are convicted of forgery, you will have a criminal record.

However, you might still have the opportunity to have your criminal record treated as spent after a certain period of time. This simply means that your record will be wiped clean. To qualify for having your record spent, you must first meet the following criteria:

  • If you were given a prison sentence, your imprisonment term must have been not more than 3 months;
  • If you were given only a fine, the fine imposed on you must have been not more than $2,000;
  • You must not have any other conviction on your criminal record; and
  • You must not have any previous spent record on the register.

If you meet these criteria, you then have to remain crime-free for at least 5 consecutive years, starting from the date of your release from prison, or from the date that your sentence was passed if you were given only a fine. Once you accomplish this, your record will be spent automatically, and you will be able to legally declare that you do not have a criminal record.

What Happens If Someone Forges My Document or Signature?

You may alert the police if you believe that a person has committed forgery on a document or record that you own or have an interest in. You may also wish to commence a civil lawsuit against the forger to claim compensation.

Do note that much like how a prosecutor has the burden to prove that a crime has been committed, in a civil suit, the person alleging forgery of their document or record also carries the burden to prove that the fraudulent act had been committed.

Evidence needs to be provided by you in order to do so, which can include handwriting or document analysis obtained via expert evidence and copies of original untampered documents. In this instance, it is suggested that you get a lawyer’s advice on the necessary evidence that you will need to provide to prove your allegations of forgery.

What Should I Do If I am Charged with Forgery?

If you are charged with forgery, it is best to contact one of our criminal lawyers to seek legal advice on how to best approach the matter, including how to potentially mitigate or lessen the penalty that might be imposed on you.

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