A 48-year-old director of RGM Entertainment was sentenced to 22 weeks’ jail on Friday (Jun 10) for forging bank statements to cover up missing funds amounting to S$17 million.
Devesh Chetty, an Australian citizen and Singapore permanent resident, pleaded guilty to three counts of forgery, two of which involved a S$15 million sum that was paid out to RGM Entertainment by the Media Development Authority (MDA) in 2010 and 2011.
MDA had set up an agreement with Chetty’s firm to establish a film production fund in Singapore, Deputy Public Prosecutor Leong Weng Tat said on Friday.
It was previously reported that MDA had seeded funds to two major film studios – 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures Entertainment – via two agreements with RGM Entertainment and RGM Group, a media company of which Chetty is also a director.
In November 2011, MDA asked Chetty to account for the S$15 million the authority had advanced to him. Chetty forged two electronic bank statements by altering the dates of two e-mails from Standard Chartered Bank, showing RGM Entertainment had retained the funds.
However the millions were no longer there, having been “utilised … to pay off part of RGM Entertainment’s overdue loans”, DPP Leong told the court.
Chetty pleaded guilty to a third charge for abetting the forgery of a DBS Bank statement. He had instigated an employee to forge a bank statement showing Sachmo International, another of his companies, had a bank balance in excess of S$5.5 million. In fact, the account had a “nominal balance”, DPP Leong told the court.
Chetty had the statement forged to appease an investor, Mr Lim, who had been chasing him for returns on his S$2 million investment. It was meant to be put towards Sachmo International’s purchase of shares in Dartina Development Limited, which owns and manages Golden Village Cinemas in Singapore.
When Chetty did not repay Mr Lim in 2013 as per the pair’s agreement, the latter reported the matter to the police. The money – S$15 million from MDA and S$2 million from Mr Lim – has not been recovered.
In court on Friday, DPP Leong urged the court to impose a deterrent sentence on Chetty for the two charges relating to public funds disbursed by the MDA to RGM Entertainment. “The deception occurred whilst a public authority was trying to account for the usage of public funds,” the DPP said.
As for the third forgery charge involving Mr Lim, DPP Leong noted that it had been committed while Chetty was on bail, having been arrested and charged for the MDA-related offences. This clearly demonstrates Chetty’s lack of remorse, the DPP said, urging the court to impose a sentence of between 22 to 26 weeks on Chetty.
District Judge Low Wee Ping said Chetty’s actions of committing another forgery offence while on bail for forgery offences is the “height of audacity”.
Chetty’s lawyer Chenthil Kumarasingam told the court 16 weeks’ jail would be fair, pointing out that his client had not been accused of misusing any funds. Mr Kumarasingam added that Chetty had not forged the bank documents with the view to extract money from MDA or Mr Lim, and that no money had changed hands as a result of the offences.
Chetty had only been trying to keep the businesses afloat, Mr Kumarasingam said. RGM Entertainment is in liquidation. The lawyer also noted that though Chetty was investigated for allegedly misusing the funds, no charges were brought against him in this respect.
A fourth charge, also for forgery, was taken into consideration in sentencing Chetty. For forgery, Chetty could have faced up to four years’ jail and/or a fine, per charge.