An Indian-origin senior prison warden in Singapore has been fined SGD 133,000 (Rs 83,02,930) for accepting bribes to transfer an inmate out of his prison cluster. Kobi Krishna Ayavoo, aged 56, was also found guilty of encouraging his colleagues to access the prison system to view the inmate’s information. He will be sentenced in January.
Kobi had faced 10 charges, primarily related to soliciting bribes from an inmate named Chong Keng Chye, and he was convicted on all counts. The prosecution argued that Kobi sought bribes from Chong between September 2015 and March 2016. These bribes were intended to cover expenses such as car loan installments, house renovations, a birthday celebration, and credit card bills.
Chong, who had been sentenced to 20 years’ preventive detention in 2005 for the abuse and death of his girlfriend’s son, was housed in Changi Prison’s A1 cluster, a maximum-security facility for offenders with lengthy sentences. Although Chong knew that Kobi did not have the authority to transfer him out of A1, Kobi claimed to have a friend who was an intelligence officer and could assist Chong.
Kobi arranged for his friend to meet Chong, but despite a medical review in early 2016, Chong was not transferred. When Kobi asked Chong to have his friends or family pass him money and complained about not being transferred, Chong rejected the request. In his defense, Kobi denied asking for money from Chong and accused him of lying to be transferred out of A1. Whenever Kobi asked Chong for money, Chong recorded the details on a magazine in his cell.
In June 2016, before going to Changi Medical Centre, Chong copied his latest records from paper torn from a novel in his cell. These records included a bank number and phone number provided by Kobi. Chong decided to report Kobi using this document because he feared Kobi would cause trouble for him after his surgery and failed to return the requested money.
Another inmate testified about Chong giving money to a prison employee in exchange for assistance. After Kobi was charged with seeking bribes, he was suspended from his position and lost access to the prison’s information system. Deputy Public Prosecutor Magdalene Huang stated that Kobi went to great lengths during the trial to pretend he was not financially strained.
Kobi had been suspended since July 2017 and received half of his pay, SGD 2,000 a month, until his retirement in December 2022. Huang also noted that Kobi delayed court proceedings, choosing to undergo a non-emergency surgery shortly before the trial was scheduled to start in September 2018. He reported sick at the entrance of the State Courts in February 2021 and went to a private clinic, where he received a negative COVID-19 test result.
The case against Kobi highlights the serious consequences of corruption within the prison system. His sentencing in January will further demonstrate Singapore’s commitment to maintaining integrity and accountability within its institutions.