On Thursday (July 21), a 43-year-old man was sentenced to four-year jail for selling more than 66,000 SIM cards between January 2010 and August 2012.
Tan pleaded guilty to 220 charges out of 660 charges under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act. The remaining 440 charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.
Tan Kong Chieh had registered false ownership information before selling them to other retailers on a freelance basis for SIM cards with the local telecommunication companies, Starhub, Singtel and MI from his home Lakeside Tower, Yuan Ching Road.
Tan began "pre-registering" the pre-paid SIM cards in 2005. He registered the SIM cards by using the identity of individuals who were not the eventual buyers of the cards before selling them. It was hard to find people who were willing to provide their personal particulars for what he wanted to do though. Therefore, sometime in 2008 or 2009, he bought scanned copies of passports from tour agency in China and register the numbers using the identities from the passports.
In 2005, new regulatory controls for SIM cards were implemented, including the need to record personal particulars for each registration, after the discovery of terrorists who were taught to communicate with each other without being detected.
Earlier in 2014, the government tightened the limit number of pre-paid SIM cards each person can have, only three instead of the previous ten.
The prosecution said that the cards that have been registered by Tan are still being sold openly online, often at a premium, such as S$95 for a pre-registered pre-paid SIM card with a stored value of S$50. The prosecution also called for a stiff sentence, noting that Tan's actions directly facilitated unlicensed money-lending crimes.
There were many people who wanted to remain anonymous, such as loan sharks and their runners, bought the pre-registered SIM cards without being traced.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Sanjiv Vaswani told the court that Tan has been in this business for more than 10 years and this imprisonment was not his first time. In January 2010, Tan was arrested for similar offences. He was out on bail but continued to run the business. In June 2012, he was charged and convicted of 1,909 counts of cheating. He continued to sell the cards 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, mainly to Chinese and Indians, and S$189,250 in cash were seized. Officers also recovered two devices used to register the cards under false identities, one of which were handed to the police by Tan's wife.
“This paints a picture of an offender who has engaged in a sustained period of criminal conduct. 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,” Vaswani said.
Tan could have been fined $10,000 and jailed for three years on each of his charges.