Singapore

High Court overturns maid’s conviction for theft from employer

The High Court has acquitted a Filipino domestic worker who was jailed 12 months by a district judge for stealing her then 89-year-old employer's ATM cards and withdrawing a total of $8,000 from his bank accounts.

Ms Portela Vilma Jimenez, now 50, was found guilty of 10 charges of theft by District Judge Jasvender Kaur earlier this year, for stealing two ATM cards belonging to Mr Yong Choon Hiong and making eight unauthorised withdrawals of $1,000 each from his bank accounts.

The withdrawals, which were captured on closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage, were made on six occasions between Jan 13, 2017, and Feb 8, 2017. Seven transactions involved Mr Yong's United Overseas Bank ATM card, and one was made with his POSB ATM card.

Both the prosecution and the defence did not dispute that the withdrawals were made.

But Deputy Public Prosecutor Sia Jiazheng said Ms Jimenez had done so without Mr Yong's knowledge after stealing the ATM cards.

Her lawyers, Mr Suang Wijaya and Ms Syazana Yahya, said she was allowed to make the withdrawals in exchange for sexual favours she gave to her elderly employer.

High Court Judge Chua Lee Ming, who heard the appeal and overturned the conviction, has not issued a written judgment. But Ms Jimenez's lawyers said Justice Chua did not agree that the prosecution had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr Yong did not hand the ATM cards to her.

Ms Jimenez, who had worked in Singapore and Kuwait for 20 years, worked for Mr Yong and his wife from December 2015 until April 2017.

Mr Yong had said he first discovered the unauthorised withdrawals from his account when he received his January 2017 bank statements in February that year.

He made a police report later as he was told he would not be able to view the CCTV footage without one.

However, Mr Wijaya and Ms Syazana said he had passed his ATM cards and written his PIN number on a piece of paper for Ms Jimenez, so that she could withdraw money in exchange for sexual favours. They contended that Mr Yong had agreed to pay her $500 each time, and that she was paid on four occasions for this.

They also said Mr Yong had made a police report as he had lied to his family about the unauthorised withdrawals after they found out about it.

Judge Kaur, who convicted Ms Jimenez, said the offences were committed against "a vulnerable victim" of advanced age, and also found that her evidence was riddled with inconsistencies.

COURT & CRIME