SINGAPORE - In an attempt to pay back his former clients, a private banker forged signatures and documents to siphon away US$10 million (S$13.6 million) from his clients' Barclays bank accounts.
The Barclays banker then made more unauthorised trades and transactions to recover and replace the sum, but ended up with extra losses of at least US$10 million instead.
Kale Jagdish Purushottam, 43, was sentenced to 13 years' jail on Thursday (July 4), after he pleaded guilty to 20 forgery and cheating-related charges, and another 30 charges under the Computer Misuse Act.
Another 503 similar charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.
The offences were committed between June 2010 and January 2013, when Kale was employed as a private banker with Barclays Bank.
Prior to joining the British bank in Feb 2010, Kale worked for UBS Singapore where he was the relationship manager for a company called Red Oak, which alleged that Kale had engaged in unauthorised foreign exchange transactions using the money in its account.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Ng Jean Ting said Kale agreed to pay Red Oak $14 million to avoid a legal case.
However, Kale paid the firm with money from his Barclays clients' bank accounts instead.
He forged payment instructions and signatures to illegally transfer to Red Oak about US$10 million from bank accounts maintained by three clients.
DPP Ng told the court that Kale passed off the forged documents by copying and pasting the genuine signatures of authorised signatories into his own Word documents.
To cover up the shortfall in the bank accounts of his three clients, he forged more documents to move monies between his other clients' accounts.
He made about 81 unauthorised fund transfers in this manner.
Kale also forged documents to create accounts in his clients' names that would allow him to take up loans. These loan sums were then transferred to Red Oak, or used to cover up the other unauthorised fund transfers, said DPP Ng.
He raised 162 loans in the accounts maintained by six of his clients.
To cover up the loss of his clients' monies, Kale tried to make money through unauthorised stock and foreign exchange transactions using his clients' accounts, she added.
"However, the unauthorised trades and other transactions caused further net losses of at least US$10 million to Barclays," said DPP Ng.
On Feb 1, 2013, the Commercial Affairs Department received information that Kale might have forged his clients' signatures. He was also sacked in the same month.
In mitigation, defence counsel Anand Nalachandran told the court that Kale had not made the transfers or trades for personal financial benefit, but to satisfy what he thought was an obligation. "Having just moved to Barclays, he was faced with allegations (from Red Oak), and instead of heeding advice, he rather rashly acted and then did these things to satisfy his obligation," said Mr Anand.
However, District Judge Ong Hian Sun pointed out that there was a "grave breach of trust" on Kale's end.
According to court documents, Barclays managed to recover US$4 million after a settlement with Red Oak and Kale made restitution of $400,000 to the bank.
For each count of forgery for the purpose of cheating, Kale could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.