Penalties for Lying to the Authorities in Singapore
Lying to the authorities is a criminal offence and encompasses a wide range of scenarios which include lodging false police reports and lying to health officials.
Under section 177 of the Penal Code, an individual who is legally bound to provide information to the authorities but knowingly offers false information instead is liable for a fine of up to $5,000, a jail term of up to 6 months or both.
Take this scenario as illustrated by the Penal Code for example:
A landholder, A, knows of a murder that has taken place on his property. However, he intentionally misinforms the police that the death was a mere accident and the consequence of a snake bite.
By the definition of section 177 of the Penal Code, A would be guilty of an offence for providing false information on the victim’s cause of death.
As mentioned, lying to the authorities can refer to various scenarios. To give you more insight, we will be delving further into the following offences in this article.
Making a False Police Report
Governed by section 182 of the Penal Code, anyone who intentionally provides a public servant with wrong information to mislead them into using their lawful power for certain acts, will be liable to a jail term of up to 2 years, a fine, or both.
These certain acts are:
- Injuring another person;
- Annoying any person; or
- Doing or omitting to do anything that the public servant would otherwise do or omit to do (including causing the public servant to expend resources inefficiently).
In November 2019, Fredy Kosman Kwee, who was unhappy with the lack of attention from his boyfriend, made three separate phone calls to the police and accused his partner of drugging and raping him.
In light of the allegations made, the police opened investigations against Kwee’s boyfriend under the Penal Code and Misuse of Drugs Act.
However, Kwee’s claims were ultimately proven false with the help of CCTV footage and he was found guilty of making a false police report.
Further investigations eventually uncovered that Kwee had been suffering from amphetamine-induced psychosis at the time of the offences, resulting in a lower sentence of a 5-day jail term.
Lying About an Offence That has been Committed
Section 203 of the Penal Code states that if you purposefully give the police false information despite knowing or having reason to believe that a crime has been committed, you can be sentenced to a jail term of up to 2 years, a fine or both.
This section essentially refers to intentionally misleading the police to help a criminal escape and avoid the legal consequences of his actions.
Tampering with Evidence
Interfering with investigations, by altering or destroying evidence with the intention of helping a criminal escape conviction, results in heavy sentences. The more serious the offence being covered up for is, the more severe the sentence:
If the offence being covered up for is punishable by death, you will be liable to a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine.
If the offence being covered up for is punishable by life imprisonment or for a jail term of up to 20 years, you will be liable to a jail term of up to 7 years and a fine.
If the offence being covered up for is punishable by a jail term that does not exceed 20 years, you will be liable to a maximum jail term of a quarter of the longest term of the original offence and/or a fine.
For more information on destroying and tampering with evidence, please refer to our other article.
Perjury: Lying or Providing False Evidence in Court
Witnesses are expected to tell the truth in court. Before they testify in court, for example, they are required to swear or affirm that they will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Erroneous productions of evidence and witness accounts in court may not only lead to false convictions, but also squanders resources that could have otherwise been invested in other cases and investigations.
With this in mind, Chapter XI of the Penal Code is dedicated to offences for various situations of falsified evidence and lays out their corresponding punishments.
For example, the punishment meted out for lying or consciously providing false information, despite being legally bound by oath to state the truth, is provided for in section 193 of the Penal Code.
Under this section, anyone who commits perjury and intentionally gives false information, or fabricates false evidence for use in any stage of a judicial proceeding, can be jailed up to 7 years and will be liable to a fine.
Lying to Immigration Authorities
Lying to the authorities does not only entail misinformation to law enforcement officials but other public servants, such as the immigration authorities, as well.
Section 28 of the Immigration Act explicitly states that any person entering or leaving Singapore is obligated to fully and truthfully answer any questions asked by an immigration or police officer.
Failing to be honest with the immigration authorities may end with you being liable for a fine of up to $2,000, or to a jail term of up to 6 months or both. Alternatively, knowingly producing any false or misleading documents could land you with a fine of up to $6,000, or to a jail term of up to 2 years, or both.
In addition, section 14(4)(a) of the Immigration Act dictates that if you have entered or are remaining in Singapore by way of a permit, and any information given in relation to your application for the permit is false, the Controller of Immigration may revoke the permit and declare your presence to be unlawful.
Once your presence is declared unlawful, you will be guilty of an offence. If you remain unlawfully in Singapore for 90 days or less, you could land up with a fine of up to $4,000 or to a jail term of up to 6 months, or both.
Should your stay exceed 90 days, you will be faced with a harsher sentence of a maximum jail term of up to 6 months and shall also be punished with at least 3 strokes of the cane.
If you are deemed to be not suitable for caning, you will be punished with a fine of up to $6,000 instead (on top of the existing jail term).
In the case of former China tour guide, Yang Yin, the Singapore Permanent Resident had lied his way into obtaining an employment pass, and finally, permanent residency in Singapore. He also had plans to apply for citizenship.
Prior to his conviction, Yang had been producing fake documents and financial statements to trick the authorities into believing that he was the owner of a successful company.
The revelation of his deception led the authorities to further expose the rest of Yang’s lies which included a fake university degree and his falsification of over a hundred receipts. His deceit and manipulation allowed him to obtain permanent residency while his wife was granted a long-term visit pass.
For 120 charges against him that were purely related to the forging of documents, Yang was sentenced to a total jail term of 26 months.
Lying When Applying for Work Permits
Under section 22(1)(d) of the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, lying when applying for or renewing a work pass constitutes an offence.
If you make a false statement or provide misleading information which you know or ought to know is deceptive to an authorised person, such as officials from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), you may be fined up to $20,000, or jailed for a maximum of 2 years, or both.
Lying to Tax Authorities (Tax Evasion)
Typically, tax evasion is derived from the deliberate misrepresentation of profits and accounts to receive a lower tax liability. This is achieved by lying and omitting any information with regard to the income or profit you have made and are required to declare when filing taxes.
Section 96 of the Income Tax Act sets out that any person who wilfully intends to evade, or assist another party to evade, tax will be subject to a penalty of thrice the amount of tax undercharged, a maximum $10,000 fine, a maximum 3-year jail term or a combination of the three.
On the other hand, section 96A of the Income tax Act deals with more serious fraudulent tax evasion like the fabrication of documents (as compared to lying about or omitting income or profit information when filing their tax returns).
In this case, offenders may be sentenced to pay up to quadruple the amount of tax underpaid, a fine of up to $50,000, or a jail term of a maximum of 5 years or a combination of the three.
In December 2019, Ng Wee Kheng was found guilty of understating S$1.28 million of his trade income in an attempt to pay less taxes.
For his actions, Ng was sentenced to a jail term of 6 months and ordered to pay a penalty fee of S$740,978, which amounted to thrice the amount of tax he evaded.
Learn more about tax evasion in Singapore in our other article.
Lying to Health Authorities
Section 64 of the Infectious Diseases Act (IDA) provides that providing false or misleading documents and information, and hindering any authorised figure with power conferred by the IDA, are punishable offences.
In the case of a first-time conviction, you may be liable for a fine of up to $10,000, a jail term of up to 6 months or to both. On the other hand, repeat offenders will face a fine of up to $20,000, a jail term of up to 12 months or both.
Amidst the coronavirus outbreak in February 2020, a couple from China was charged with giving false information to Ministry of Health (MOH) officials.
Chinese national Hu Jun had arrived in Singapore with his wife, Shi Sha, just nine days before he was confirmed to have COVID-19. Authorities reached out to the pair for their whereabouts to conduct thorough contact tracing, but the pair proceeded to lie about their movements.
Given the severity of the outbreak, their lies could have posed a huge health risk and danger to many other unsuspecting civilians.
Lying to the Traffic Police
One is guilty of obstructing, preventing or defeating the course of justice for road traffic incidents if they were to:
- Lie to the traffic police about one’s identity, such as by providing false/misleading information or suppressing/altering information.
- Mislead the traffic police by taking the rap on behalf of an offending driver (or allowing someone to do so on your behalf). For example, by falsely claiming that he/she had been the person driving the vehicle, and therefore the person who committed the traffic offence.
Persons guilty of either of these offences will be jailed for up to 1 year and/or fined up to $10,000. Offenders may also be disqualified from driving.
Lying to the authorities can come with dire consequences and it is simply not up for debate that all information given to the authorities should be as truthful and factual as possible.
Hence when giving any information to the authorities, it is in the greatest interest of everyone to ensure that your information is unembellished and provided to the best of your knowledge.
If you have been charged with an offence for lying to the authorities, you may want to engage a criminal defence lawyer. A good criminal defence lawyer will know how to best defend you, disprove any false accusations against you and help achieve a fair outcome for your matter.
Should you require further assistance or legal advice, do not hesitate to reach out to any of our experienced criminal lawyers.
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