Filipino Ex-Helper Acquitted Of Theft, Was Accused Of Making Unlawful Bank Withdrawals
In the midst of this ongoing case comes another theft acquittal, which also involves a domestic helper.
A Filipino ex-domestic helper Portela Vilma Jimenez was acquitted of 10 criminal charges of theft on Fri (30 Oct).
She was charged with 8 unlawful withdrawals from her ex-employer’s bank accounts in 2017, and was sentenced to 12 months’ jail.
Thankfully, she successfully had her sentence overturned after 3 years.
Accused of 8 unauthorised bank withdrawals
In a Facebook post by Eugene Thuraisingam LLP, the firm – whose team members Mr Suang Wijaya (lead counsel) and Ms Syazana Yahya had represented Ms Portela – shared the triumphant news of her overturned sentence on Fri (30 Oct).
Honourable Justice Chua Lee Ming cleared her of all 10 criminal charges of theft brought against her for 8 unauthorised ATM withdrawals from her ex-employer’s bank account.
She had been accused of making these withdrawals between Jan-Feb 2017.
The ex-employer reported her in late Feb 2017 for taking 2 of his ATM cards and using his PIN code to withdraw money without his consent.
For illustration purposes only
In 2017, Ms Portela was convicted of these charges and sentenced to 12 months’ jail. Undeterred, she maintained her innocence and decided to file for an appeal.
After a 3-year trial period, her lawyers successfully fought for her case and she was cleared of all charges on 30 Oct morning.
Justice’s Chua’s 4 reasons for acquittal
After oral arguments were presented from the defence in the Appeals court, Justice Chua shared his 4 reasons for acquitting her unequivocally:
- The complainant claimed he filed a report with the bank in the first week of Feb 2017 after he found out about the unconsented withdrawals. However, there was no evidence he did so.
- He also took 3 weeks to file a police report against Ms Portela after supposedly finding out about her actions. This has led Justice Chua to believe that the complainant had approved all withdrawals.
- The prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt how Ms Portela could have attained the complainant’s ATM cards, when he claimed they were always with him in his wallet.
- The prosecution could not prove how Ms Portela managed to obtain the ex-employer’s PIN number, other than him giving it to her.
Credited HOME for assistance to Ms Portela
Mr Thuraisingam further thanked the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) for providing Ms Portela with shelter and support during this 3-year period.
Since the police report in Feb 2017, Ms Portela was allegedly investigated by the police without an interpreter, faced a criminal trial, and fought an appeal.
While pleading her case, Mr Thuraisingam said she was not able to work and therefore, had foregone any income she could have earned.
Additionally, she could not return to see her family and bore the possibility of being jailed in a foreign country.
Fix lapses in criminal justice system against vulnerable persons
This is a victorious verdict and we are glad that Ms Portela was acquitted of false charges brought against her.
However, Ms Portela and Ms Liyani’s cases revealed the possibility of lapses in Singapore’s justice system when it came to vulnerable people.
The Workers’ Party’s chair Sylvia Lim will be speaking on this issue in Parliament on Wed (4 Nov). During the debate, we hope amendments will be made to prevent such miscarriages of justice happening to domestic helpers in the future.
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Featured image adapted from Facebook.
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