A man who “flooded the market” with more than 66,000 illegally registered SIM cards was sentenced to four years’ jail on Thursday (Jul 21).
Tan Kong Chieh, 42, pleaded guilty to 220 counts under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act for using the stolen identities of foreign nationals to falsely register 66,445 SIM cards between January 2010 and August 2012. Another 440 counts were taken into consideration during sentencing.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Sanjiv Vaswani said while Tan was formally charged with 660 counts, he could have in fact been slapped with 66,445 – one for each SIM card. But if this were the case, Tan’s sentence would clearly have been of "staggering proportions”.
In the interests of avoiding a "crushing sentence”, the prosecution urged the court to impose a jail term of four to five years on Tan, noting that he had “flooded the market with anonymous SIM cards” popular with unlicensed moneylenders. Such pre-paid and pre-registered SIM cards cannot be traced back to the true user.
Tan has been in the business of selling SIM cards to retailers for more than 10 years, DPP Vaswani told the court, and this is not the first time he has been caught for illegally registering them. He was arrested in January 2010 for similar offences, and while out on bail, resumed his unlawful business. He was eventually charged in June 2012 and convicted of 1,909 counts of cheating. He continued to commit the offences before serving his sentence from September 2012.
When Tan’s home was raided in August 2012, 3,598 SIM cards, 704 copies of passports of foreign nationals and S$189,250 in cash were seized. Officers also recovered two devices used to register the cards under false identities.
“This paints a picture of an offender who has engaged in a sustained period of criminal conduct”, DPP Vaswani said. “A strong message needs to be sent to anyone thinking of illegally registering SIM cards: If you do so, you are effectively registering yourself for a stay in Changi Prison.”