A senior prison warden has been convicted of seeking some S$133,000 in bribes from an inmate in exchange for transferring him out of Changi Prison's A1 cluster, a maximum-security prison for inmates who are serving long sentences, CNA reported.
According to the prosecution, Kobi Krishna Ayavoo, aged 56, had sought bribes from an inmate named Chong Keng Chye between September 2015 and March 2016 to pay off his car loan instalments, credit card bills, house renovations and a birthday celebration.
Chong has been serving a sentence of 20 years' preventive detention since 2005, after he was convicted of abusing his girlfriend's seven-year-old son until he died.
According to The Straits Times, eight of Kobi's charges are related to graft, while the remaining two are charges under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act.
Kobi claimed trial to all 10 charges, but was convicted on all of them.
The two non-graft charges are related to Kobi asking his colleague for help to access Chong's information after the warden was suspended in July 2017.
Inmate said he knew warden couldn't secure transfer
During his testimony, Chong said Kobi had promised to help him get transferred out of A1 if he lent the warden money.
Chong added that while he knew Kobi did not have the capacity or authority to do so, the warden said he had a friend who was an intelligence officer who could help.
According to CNA, Kobi then got a friend to see Chong.
However, Chong was still not transferred following a medical review in early 2016.
When Kobi asked Chong to get his friends or family to pass him money, Chong rejected him and complained that he had not been transferred.
Eventually decided to report warden
Chong also testified that whenever Kobi asked him for money, he would write down the details on a magazine in his cell.
In addition, he would copy over these records to a new magazine whenever he received it, then dispose of the old one.
In June 2016, just before going to Changi Medical Centre for surgery, Kobi copied over his latest records onto a page which he had ripped out from a novel in his cell.
These records included the numbers of a bank and phone which Kobi had provided.
Chong then decided to report Kobi using this page as he was afraid that the warden would "find trouble" for him when he returned to his cell after the surgery and failed to hand over the money the warden had asked for, according to CNA.
Warden would interact with inmate several times per week
Another inmate also testified that Chong had told him about giving money to a prison staff in exchange for help.
This inmate also said he saw Kobi pass by his cell multiple times in a week to talk with Chong for around 10 minutes.
Warden claims inmate lied to get transferred out
During his defence, Kobi denied asking money from Chong and said he only spoke to the inmate during yard times, when other inmates were within earshot, CNA reported.
He also claimed that Chong had lied to be transferred out of A1, as either the officer or the inmate will be transferred whenever an allegation is made against an officer.
Kobi's defence also alleged that Chong had been lying when the prosecution said Kobi had reason to believe the inmate could provide him with money as Chong had told inmates he would provide them with money when they were released.
In response, the prosecution said there was a stigma in prison of being labelled a snitch and that Chong's reporting of Kobi had resulted in his fellow gang members and friends distancing themselves from him.
Prosecution: Documentary evidence shows Kobi was in financial difficulties
The prosecution also highlighted that Kobi had taken "great pains" during the trial to pretend he did not have financial difficulties, according to CNA.
However, documents showed that he would finish spending his monthly salary before the next one came in from August 2015 to March 2016, with bank statements occasionally showing a negative balance.
Kobi also took out bank loans.
In addition, he was late on his car repayment loan for almost every month from 2015 to 2016, and was charged "overdue interest" fees as a result.
Delayed the trial multiple times since 2018
The prosecution also noted that Kobi repeatedly delayed the trial.
He went for a non-emergency surgery before it was originally slated to start in September 2018, was admitted to hospital for a fracture before the trial's new date in January 2019, and went for a Covid-19 swab test before its new date on September 2020.
In February 2021, Kobi reported sick while he was at the entrance of the State Courts and went for a swab test at a private clinic that turned out to be negative.
This was followed by another hospital admission in April 2021 over complaints of fainting.
Subsequently, in September 2021, he went for another swab after claiming that he had been coughing and sneezing.
In response to CNAqueries, the Singapore Prison Service said Kobi has been suspended since July 2017.
He also received half his pay, at S$2,000 per month, during his suspension until December 2022, when he reached the age of retirement at 56.
Kobi will return to court in January 2024 for sentencing.
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