A 46-year-old Singaporean businessman was sentenced on Friday (Oct 25) to four months’ jail after pleading guilty to committing violations under the Passports Act and the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore.
All because he wanted to become a father.
This Singaporean man submitted a forged birth certificate to an officer at Singapore’s Consulate-General in Mumbai, he wanted to bring a seriously-ill baby from India to Singapore for medical treatment and claimed that he and his wife were the child’s birth parents.
The document also falsely stated the child’s birthday as March 9, 2014, when he was, in fact, born on July 16 that year.
The court learned that the infant had a hernia at his groin, a life-threatening condition that needed an immediate operation.
Believing that the documents were genuine, the consular officer granted the child a Singapore document of identity as a substitute for a passport. The child was then registered as a Singapore citizen on Sept 5, 2014, and arrived in Singapore two days later.
During the court hearing, the man, identified in court documents only as “A”, also attempted to apply for Singapore citizenship for the baby’s twin brother by using another false birth certificate.
How it began
The ruse started when the man and his 35-year-old Singaporean wife learned that they cannot conceive. As an option to solve their dilemma, they went to Mumbai in September 2013 to undergo in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).
While in Mumbai, donor’s eggs were then fertilised by sperm from the Singaporean man and their male friend.
The eggs were planted on a surrogate who gave birth to the twin boys on July 16, 2014.
“A” was notified that only Indian nationals could take custody of children conceived through IVF with surrogates there. Thus, he made arrangements with his former maid, an Indian national, to take custody of the boys. He then would make arrangements to adopt the children from her at a later time.
On July 27, 2014, “A” returned to Mumbai and enlisted a man, known only as “Guru”, to help him with the boys’ paperwork.
Upon learning that one of the infants had the life-threatening condition which needed immediate medical attention, he made the decision to take the child back to Singapore as he “did not have confidence” in India’s medical facilities.
As the former maid was not ready to take over the children’s custody, Guru told “A” that he would falsely indicate in the documents that the Singaporean couple were the boys’ birth parents.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Selene Yap had earlier said: “Guru asked (A) for a date when C “A”s wife) was in India, so that the accused would not be questioned by the authorities on the discrepancy in dates, and it would also expedite the process by which the accused could bring the boys to Singapore.
“The accused informed Guru that C was last in Mumbai on March 9, 2014 for a hip replacement operation, and told Guru to indicate the date of birth for both boys… accordingly.”
A and C went to Singapore’s Consulate-General in India on Sept 5, 2014 where he handed the sick baby’s false birth certificate to the consular officer.
“A” is now out on bail of $40,000 and will surrender himself at the State Courts on Nov 4 to begin serving his sentence.
For using a forged document as genuine, he could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.
Low fertility rates lead to crime?
In a news story published in August from The Asean Post, it was reported that Singapore has the lowest total fertility rates (TFR) in the Asean region with 1.21 births per woman. While numerous initiatives have been taken by the government to increase the fertility rate, the country still saw a decrease in the number of births in 2017 by 4%.
The Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) found that the factors driving the decline in fertility levels include breakneck urbanisation and the exodus of rural folks to the city. This movement contributes to the increased costs of raising children and the lack of affordable housing for the building of families.
Beyond economics is the shift of focus from ‘quantity’ to ‘quality’, where greater emphasis is now placed on raising fewer children with a better quality of life as opposed to having as many children as possible.
Dr Le Hoang, Head of Tam Anh IVF Center in Vietnam said that “raising children with a good quality of life has become a challenge for parents; far from the usual concerns about providing basic needs and resources for their children.”
However, Singapore is an ageing society and children are needed; likewise, some people still want to experience parenthood despite their lack of capacity to bear children. Thus, many Singaporeans will go to such great lengths just to become “fathers” and “mothers” and create “families.”
The government of Singapore does not lack in programmes and policies to promote fertility and the creation of “quality-life” families.
As early as 1987, Singapore began introducing policies to raise its fertility rates. There were three major categories: (1) financial incentives; (2) support for parents to combine work and family; and (3) policies to encourage marriage.
Despite these efforts though, many people still wonder why government schemes to encourage parenthood have not produced substantial results. And how can married couples be encouraged to have more babies?