SINGAPORE — Curious about his own standing relative to his colleagues at the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), a man reached out to a former co-worker at DBS to help him to find out their salary details by conducting an unauthorised search in the bank’s database, so that he can compare their pay against his own.
On Thursday (Sept 14), Dinath Silvamany Muthaliyar, 35, was sentenced to five weeks’ jail after pleading guilty to four charges under the Computer Misuse Act for abetting his former colleague Liong Yan Shin to perform the search, and another four charges under the Banking Act for asking Liong to disclose the salary details.
Fourteen other similar charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.
Liong, 32, no longer works for DBS and was jailed for 16 weeks for his role in the offences.
The court heard that Dinath and Liong were both employed as collections officers at DBS, before Dinath switched jobs and joined MOM in 2018.
Dinath was thus aware of the bank’s rules, which prohibited collections officers from disclosing customer’s information to others. They were also prohibited from accessing the bank’s customer information system without authorisation.
The court heard that from June 2018, after Dinath left the bank, he began asking Liong to help him to find out the salary details of his colleagues at MOM.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Tan Shi Yun said that Dinath did this, on more than one occasion, because he wanted to “ascertain his standing, in respect of his salary, with his colleagues and find out if there are any differences between their salaries”.
Liong agreed and conducted unauthorised searches on the bank’s customer information system to find the salary details of Dinath’s colleagues. He would then disclose the salary details to Dinath through messaging application WhatsApp on the same day that he did the unauthorised searches, the court heard.
Court documents did not state if Liong got anything in return for helping Dinath or how many MOM officers’ salaries are available in DBS’ customer information system.
It is common for salaries to be credited directed to employees’ bank accounts but it is unclear if all salaries paid by MOM are credited to DBS accounts or also to those of other banks.
Dinath’s requests were eventually found out after the Commercial Affairs Department under the Singapore Police Force received a report lodged by DBS on Dec 14, 2018, about Liong’s unauthorised access into its system.
In a response to TODAY’s query, MOM said that it was informed of police’s investigations into Dinath in Dec 2018 and it had immediately redeployed him to another role, pending the outcome of investigations.
It said that his contract with the ministry was not renewed when it expired in June 2019 and he is no longer in MOM’s employment.
‘NO MISCHIEF, HE WAS JUST CURIOUS’
While Dinath had lower culpability than Liong in committing these crimes, the prosecution argued that Dinath had still abetted another person into disclosing the salary details when he knew that it was prohibited by the bank, and sought six to seven weeks’ jail.
In Dinath’s mitigation plea, his defence counsel Dhillon Surinder Singh emphasised that there was no mischief behind Dinath’s intentions as he was only curious about the salaries of his colleagues at MOM.
Mr Dhillon said that after receiving the details from Liong, Dinath had not provided the salaries of his colleagues to third parties.
He added: “If only Dinath could turn the clock back, he would not have engaged in such foolish actions.”
Deputy Principal District Judge Luke Tan, however, disagreed with the defence, stating that even though Dinath’s motivation was to find out his MOM colleagues’ salary information, it does not mean that it did not cause harm to those colleagues as the offences were committed out of self-interest.
In delivering the sentence, the judge said that Dinath was aware of the importance of banking secrecy and information contained in the banks’ computers since he was a former DBS collections officer.
For abetting Liong into disclosing information under the Banking Act, Dinath could have been fined up to S$125,000 or jailed up to three years.
For abetting Liong to make the unauthorised search under the Computer Misuse Act, Dinath could have been fined up to S$5,000 or jailed up to two years, or both.