Crime busters win accolades for cracking case

The arrest of a private banker who ran away with more than half a million dollars and the busting of a fake-gold scam were just some of the cases police investigators cracked last year.

Yesterday, the officers who solved those crimes were among 219 men and women, and 193 teams from the force, that received commendations from Commissioner of Police Ng Joo Hee at the Home Team Academy.

Chief investigation officer Sharon Xie, 29, said the award was far from her mind when she was pursuing Vyia Lee Yock Sim, a former bank relationship manager who had misappropriated more than US$400,000 from seven high net-worth clients by 2006.

Lee, then 26, lived the high life, splurging her clients' money on luxury goods such as Salvatore Ferragamo shoes, Chanel accessories and even a Rolex watch for her father. A large chunk of the money went to the downpayment for a condominium unit with her then-boyfriend, said Ms Xie, who is with the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD).

Lee's crime went undetected for nearly three years. When one of her clients found out and complained to the bank, another client of hers - an Italian man in his 70s - made restitution to the bank on her behalf.

Both of them, who were in an intimate relationship, later skipped town together.

"She left the country with him knowing that the bank was going to make a report with CAD," said Ms Xie.

Lee spent the next six years on the run in cities such as Rome and Shanghai.

However, the law caught up with her when she tried to pass through Hong Kong with a forged Lithuanian passport in September 2012. She was later deported and sentenced to jail for 40 months last July.

For Station Inspector (SI) Teng Chin Hock, 35, taking down a syndicate pawning fake-gold jewellery was what preoccupied him since 2012.

The jewellery, believed to have been brought in from India, was made of copper but plated in gold. The items looked so genuine that valuers at pawn shops were fooled, said SI Teng, who is with the Commercial Crime Squad of Ang Mo Kio Police Division.

The syndicate was smashed when the ringleader and two key members were ambushed and arrested in late 2012. Seven others were nabbed later.

Solving cases and bringing criminals to justice are what motivates them, said the two officers.

"When we pick up a case, we'll follow through with the case," said SI Teng. "That's our responsibility as investigation officers."

This article was first published on June 28, 2014.
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