For cracking SingPass accounts to aid a China-based identity trafficking syndicate, Singaporean James Sim Guan Liang was sentenced to five years and two months’ jail on Thursday (Mar 24).
Sim, 39, had previously pleaded guilty to “harvesting” the login credentials of 293 SingPass users and selling their personal data to the syndicate, which used these to help Chinese nationals enter Singapore under false pretenses.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Jeremy Lua urged the court to impose a jail term of five to six years on Sim. The case of identity theft by an individual who exploited the SingPass system is unprecedented in its scale, the prosector said. Sim had made tens of thousands of attempts to gain unauthorised access to SingPass accounts, successfully cracking hundreds.
Sim’s lawyer Louis Joseph argued that a three-year jail term would be appropriate, noting that Sim only earned about S$1,500 from his crimes.
District Judge Low Wee Ping said Sim’s harvesting of hundreds of SingPass accounts is “no different from breaking into a house” hundreds of times. The SingPass system is a “vital part of the Singapore Government’s information technology structure”, the judge said. “The whole nation relies on it.”
“For you to expose hundreds of users to potential harm is reckless and unconscionable”, Judge Low said, noting that without Sim’s help in stealing the identities of SingPass users, the syndicate would have been handicapped. “If you did not sell (the data), the crimes would have been a non-starter”, the judge told Sim.
As for Sim’s assertion that he had only made S$1,500 out of the operation, the judge said: “When I rob a bank and (only steal) S$10, that means I shouldn’t be punished for bank robbery since I only got S$10?”