Yesterday (27 Aug), Pakistani national Mohammad Sohail failed in his appeal to the High Court against a three-week jail sentence handed down by a district court last December.
Soheil was first charged in September last year and was convicted by the district court for lying in his permanent residence (PR) application to the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) more than 20 years ago.
Sohail first arrived in Singapore in 1995 on an Employment Pass (EP) and quickly married a Singaporean woman the following year. Between September and October 1997, he applied for PR and falsely stated he had a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Punjab.
In actual fact, he had submitted a fake degree, which he obtained from his cousin in Pakistan. It’s not known if he had also used the same fake degree to obtain his EP earlier so as to be allowed to work in Singapore. In any case, Sohail’s PR application was approved in December 1997.
ICA told the media the offences were uncovered during an internal check.
The Pakistani now has Singaporean children with his Singaporean wife. ICA said it will consider each case carefully before deciding whether to revoke the PR status of a person convicted of offences.
In dismissing the appeal, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said that based on sentencing guidelines for such cases, the starting point was a custodial term of two to four weeks. He noted that the district judge, in imposing three weeks’ jail, had already taken into account that Sohail was remorseful as he readily owned up to his wrongdoing.
Still, the question remains how it took ICA more than 20 years to uncover the fake degree sent in by the Pakistani and how he obtained the EP to work in Singapore in 1995 before he married the Singaporean woman.
How many more PRs with fake degrees approved by ICA?
Sohail is not the first case which a foreigner uses a fake degree to dupe ICA into granting PR status to them.
In Jan this year, a Filipino was also jailed for “lying” to ICA (‘ICA takes years to discover fake degree submitted by Filipino for PR application even after conviction‘, 19 Jan 2020).
The 38-year-old female Filipino, De Luna Noriza Dancel, was sentenced to 7 weeks’ jail for “providing false statements to the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) on her and her daughter’s Permanent Residency (PR) applications”.
De Luna submitted false documents purportedly from the Centro Escolar University during her PR application in 2008 and 2009. She was eventually granted PR status by ICA but was only arrested about a decade later in 2017 for submitting the fake documents. And in took about another 2 more years for De Luna to be prosecuted and sentenced.
“The case was surfaced following ICA’s internal investigations. Verifications with the Centro Escolar University located in Manila, Philippines revealed that De Luna has no records of enrolment at the said school, and the diploma and transcript which De Luna had submitted for the applications did not originate from their office,” ICA said.
In other words, the Filipino submitted a fake degree to ICA when she applied for PR status.
It’s not known why ICA did not check the authenticity of the degrees submitted by foreigners like Sohail and De Luna when they first submitted their PR applications. It’s also not known what prompted subsequent ICA’s internal checks.
With more cases surfacing from foreigners like Sohail and De Luna, who applied for PR status with fake degrees, it’s not known how many more foreigners with fake degrees have been granted PR status by ICA in Singapore.