Missing co-op funds: Duo suspended

Missing co-op funds: Duo suspended

One of Singapore's oldest co-operatives has suspended two workers after $5 million went missing from its accounts.

The Singapore Statutory Boards Employees' Co-operative Thrift and Loan Society said the duo were suspended immediately after it discovered the misappropriation in October last year.

In a statement yesterday, the co-operative described it as a "most unfortunate incident and an isolated case", adding that it had lodged a police report.

Members were told of the missing funds last November, but were reassured yesterday at the co-operative's annual general meeting at the Singapore Khalsa Association in Balestier that their interests would be protected.

Yesterday's meeting took about two hours and was attended by more than 100 members, most of whom were in their 40s to 60s. Members were tight-lipped about what had transpired at the closed-door session, but most said they were not worried that they could risk losing their savings.

Founded in 1925, the co-op has at least 1,000 members, who are permanent employees of several statutory boards. The independent organisation is regulated by the Registry of Co-operative Societies under the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

Thrift and loan co-ops generally take in deposits and grant loans to members. They operate on a self-financing basis, where members pay a small entrance fee and put in a regular monthly sum.

Member Jamal Khasim, 50, a technician at Singapore Power Group who saves about $100 a month with the co-op, said he was "satisfied" with the explanation given at the meeting.

"We heard about the money going missing. It was upsetting initially... but I feel assured by what they said at the meeting and trust them," he said.

Similarly, Mr Mano Garan, 63, who has been a member of the co-op for more than 40 years, said he will continue to save with it. "I believe it's safe... I will continue to pay," said the senior technician at the Public Utilities Board.

The co-op said it has engaged a lawyer to represent it and to protect members' interests, but was unable to provide more information as the case is under police investigation.

"We would like to assure our members that we are doing everything we can to assist police with their investigations.

"Our priority is to... do everything we can to ensure that the financial impact of this incident to our members is reduced to a minimum," it said in a statement.

The meeting closed with a lunch and lucky draw for members, with most leaving with home appliances such as rice cookers in hand.

This article was published on June 16 in The Straits Times.

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