A former assistant project manager was jailed for 24 months yesterday over money laundering offences committed two years ago.
In all, Chua Kok Hin received about $470,000 which he had reason to believe was stolen property. He transferred $466,000 out of Singapore. Chua, 50, pleaded guilty to five charges and had 12 others taken into consideration.
Sometime in April 2012, Chua came to know one "Rosina Carr'' on the Internet, Deputy Public Prosecutor Yau Pui Man said. They started chatting actively but never met.
Investigations showed Rosina told Chua the following month she did not have a bank account in Malaysia and asked him to open one in Singapore to help her receive funds for her business in Malaysia. Chua did so and provided her with his OCBC account details.
On June 21, a sum of US$60,000 ($75,707) was fraudulently transferred from American citizen Susan Price Hollern's bank account in the United States to Chua's OCBC account.
Ms Hollern, 51, later reported to police that her e-mail account was hacked and a fraudulent transfer was made to Chua's account in Singapore when she had no dealings with anyone here.
As instructed by Rosina, Chua withdrew $72,000 from the account the next day and left for Malaysia. He deposited the money into a Hong Leong Bank account.
Three days later, another amount of $279,125 was fraudulently transferred from Talya Investments to Chua's account. Of this amount, Rosina told Chua to transfer $150,000 to a bank account in Malaysia. Chua complied and handed over the sum on June 27 to his co-worker Ngo Soon Kiong, 35, who deposited it into the same Hong Leong account in Johor Baru.
Investigations showed that Rosina instructed Chua to deposit another sum of $115,000 into three bank accounts in Malaysia.
Chua's lawyer Vinit Chhabra said in mitigation that his client was used by the "woman" who sent many e-mails to Chua, expressing romantic interest in him.
Counsel said Chua did it for friendship; did not benefit financially; and regretted that he was manipulated and used by the person claiming to be "Rosina Carr". He said Chua, who has three grown-up children, had learnt a hard but valuable lesson.
District Judge Tan Boon Heng said the sheer size of the money received and transferred should have rung alarm bells, and that the punishment imposed must send a strong deterrent.
Chua could have been jailed for up to five years and/or fined for each charge of dishonestly receiving stolen property.
The maximum penalty for transferring property which directly represents benefits from criminal conduct is a $500,000 fine and seven years' jail on each charge.
This article was published on Aug 7 in The Straits Times.
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