SINGAPORE, April 25 — The former chairman of a Singapore mosque’s management board was jailed for two years and three months yesterday for siphoning close to S$372,000 (RM1.12 million) from the mosque’s coffers.
Ab Mutalif Hashim, 58, stole the money from Darussalam Mosque over a period of seven years and deposited most of it into various bank accounts, including his personal bank account.
It is believed to be one of the largest amounts misappropriated from a mosque.
He pleaded guilty to six counts of criminal breach of trust in March.
Delivering her sentence, District Judge Ong Chin Rhu said she considered several factors, including the amount of money misappropriated and the degree of trust held by Ab Mutalif, who occupied a senior leadership position at the mosque at the time.
She also noted that the offences were committed over a “long period” of seven years from 2006 to 2013 and only stopped after he stepped down from the board.
Ab Mutalif’s lawyer Satwant Singh had previously argued that his client was a “hero” for giving money to the downtrodden, handing out between S$67,000 and S$84,000 to the homeless, needy school children, foreign workers, ex-offenders and others in need.
However, Ong noted that while he had disbursed some of the money to the needy, he also used a portion for his personal and household expenses.
According to the court’s statement of facts, S$71,000 went to his personal bank account while S$72,000 and S$18,000 were respectively deposited into two charities that he ran, the Just Parenting Association (JPA) and the Association for Devoted and Active Family Men (Adam).
Some of the misappropriated money is still unaccounted for.
“Based on the above review of the facts pertaining to usage of the monies misappropriated, what was clear was that this was neither a case where all or most of the monies misappropriated have been given to the needy, nor a case where there was no personal gain on the part of Mr Mutalif,” said Ong.
She added that Ab Mutalif’s offences could also lead to public disquiet and shake public trust and confidence in the charity sector.
“As this was a case involving misappropriation of charity monies, the ultimate victims of the breach of trust were the numerous congregants who gave generously out of their own financial resources to the mosque, with the legitimate expectation and belief that these monies would be managed and used prudently, responsibly, in a transparent manner and in keeping with proper procedure and process,” she said.
About the case
Ab Mutalif had served as chairman of the mosque’s management board from 2003 to 2010. He stayed on as the board’s voluntary chairman till March 2013.
He helped set up JPA in 2004 and was the charity’s executive director and also served as president of Adam between 2003 to 2010. The two organisations are registered charities.
The court heard that as chairman of the mosque, Ab Mutalif — who was appointed by Muis (the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore) — would instruct the mosque’s volunteers and caretakers to bring the donation chests to his office for safekeeping after Friday prayer sessions.
He would then take money from the chest without anyone’s knowledge.
After he took the money, he instructed volunteers to bring the remaining cash collections to the administrative office for counting and recorded the amount in the mosque’s accounting system. The money would then be deposited into the mosque’s bank account.
The court heard that between January 2006 and March 2013, he misappropriated a total of S$371,891 in this manner. He deposited S$306,629 into his personal bank account, JPA’s account and the account of someone called Aiffah Ahmad. Court documents did not state the person’s relationship with Ab Mutalif.
Ab Mutalif used the money deposited into his account for his personal and household expenses such as credit card and medical bills.
The money deposited into JPA’s account was mainly used for operational expenses such as payroll, rental and utilities. The court heard that at the time, Ab Mutalif drew a monthly salary of S$7,000 as executive director of JPA.
Ab Mutalif’s actions were carried out without the knowledge and authorisation of the board’s management and Muis. The court heard that Ab Mutalif did not tell the board what the misappropriated funds were used for as he believed his proposals would not be supported. — TODAY