Lucy (not real name) exhaled sharply. For the fifth consecutive day, she had lost all her money at the betting table. As she trudged out dejectedly from the casino, a leering Big Ben (moneylender) and his two underlings stopped her near the exit.
“Any luck today, Ms CFO?” Big Ben greeted her sarcastically. “Your payment of $200,000 with interest is due in two days. Please remember to pay up on time. Otherwise, I will have to visit your office to collect the debt from you. Don’t blame me if your colleagues get to know of your little gambling addiction and financial difficulties.” His underlings gleefully mouthed the words “You are fired.”
The thinly veiled threat was not lost on Lucy and she pleaded with Big Ben, “I have no way to pay up in 2 days! Please, show up anywhere else but my office. I will lose my job!”
“I have a solution for you, Ms CFO. You have the most convenient job in the world – right next to the tills. Just work a little magic on the tills and voila, all your financial troubles will vanish. Not only will you be able to pay me back, you can even get some capital to recoup your losses at the betting table. After you have won, you can return the money on the same day itself. No one will know.” His underlings waved their imaginary magic wands in the air.
“Either work your magic or wait for my visit. Think carefully about what I had just said.” Big Ben swaggered off with his snickering underlings.
The next day, while in the office, Lucy gazed intently at the specimen signatures of her company’s authorised signatories. In front of her was an unused cheque book which was entrusted to her. “Not that hard to copy the signatures,” she thought to herself. “Just a few strokes of my pen and my troubles will disappear.”
However, she knew that she would be committing a crime and she would also be betraying her CEO’s trust in her.
She had two options:
(1) To forge the signatures and issue a cheque to herself so that she could repay her debts to Big Ben; or
(2) To resist the temptation to embezzle from her company and seek an alternative solution to resolve the situation.
Lucy eventually decided to take the easy way out and bet on the first option, which was to clear her debts through illegal means.
Lucy’s embezzlement was quickly discovered by her company. Besides terminating her employment, her company reported her to the police. Lucy was charged and convicted of theft of company cheques, forgery and criminal breach of trust. She was sent to prison and her membership as a Chartered Accountant of Singapore was also terminated by the Institute.
The fundamental ethical principle of integrity in paragraph 110.1 of the ISCA Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics (ISCA Code) imposes an obligation on all professional accountants to be straightforward and honest in all professional and business relationships.
Further, the fundamental ethical principle of professional behaviour in paragraph 150.1 of the ISCA Code requires ISCA Members to comply with relevant laws and regulations and not perform any action that would discredit the accounting profession.
ISCA Members should also take note that theft, forgery and criminal breach of trust are offences under the Penal Code.
It is clear that Lucy had breached the fundamental ethical principles of integrity and professional behaviour.
Lucy was addicted to gambling, which caused her to be heavily indebted to the moneylender. Under immense pressure from the moneylender, she turned to crime as a last resort.
ISCA Members engaged in occasional gambling as a means of “releasing stress” are strongly advised to take heed of Lucy’s tale and be wary of your seemingly harmless pastime evolving into something more sinister. One glaring red flag that your gambling habit is spiralling out of control would be when you start borrowing money to satisfy your gambling habits.
Those who need help with gambling problems are strongly advised to seek help from the National Council for Problem Gambling who can be contacted via the following:
Website - www.ncpg.org.sg