Embezzlement is a theft crime, which involves a person taking a property that he already possess, but do not own. With embezzlement, a person who is entrusted to manage or control someone else’s property uses that property inappropriately, and to the person’s own benefit.
An employee who uses company property for his personal projects commits embezzlement. Embezzlement can involve both money and other forms of property. Corporate and economic crimes in Singapore are predominantly dealt with by way of criminal sanctions or administrative actions. Administrative actions would include composition of offences or the issuance of administrative warnings or reprimands.
In Singapore, cases of embezzlement of funds by employees or company directors are prosecuted for the offence of Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT). According to Section 405 of the Penal Code, whoever, being entrusted with a property or has control over the property, honestly misappropriates it to his or her own property, commits will be liable for CBT.
According to Section 406, whoever is guilty of Criminal breach of Trust shall be imprisoned for a term up to 7 years, or with fine, or both.
Aggravated forms of criminal breach of trust are provided for in Section 407 to 409 of the Penal Code. These include CBT by carriers, clerks or servants, or by public servants, merchants, bankers, or agents respectively. These aggravated forms of CBT attract higher sanctions.
An example of alleged CBT in Singapore is that of the ongoing case involving City Harvest Church. City Harvest Church founder and pastor Kong Hee and five other associates have been charged for dubious investments made to questionable companies, and also for the alleged embezzlement of a substantial amount of money from the church’s building fund to finance the pop career of Kong’s wife, Sun Ho. The main issue surrounding the trial relates to the manner in which the building fund monies entrusted to the church’s management board was allegedly converted for improper use, in breach of the trustees’ duties.