Ex-accounts clerk jailed 18 years for embezzling $46m from employers

PHOTO: The New Paper/Wong Kwai Chow

An accounts clerk used his employers' bank accounts as his "personal piggy bank" to misappropriate more than $46 million from them.

As Richard Tiang Teng Hoong stood in the dock yesterday, he closed his eyes and bowed his head after admitting he had repeatedly abused his employers' trust and committed offences resulting in one of the highest monetary losses in Singapore's history of financial crime.

He appeared dazed and sighed when the judge sentenced him to 18 years in jail. Tiang, who no longer works for the companies, embezzled the monies over at least 300 occasions between January 2007 and March 2014.

District Judge Mathew Joseph said the 69-year-old had used the bank accounts of his employers as his "personal piggy bank" and said the jail term has to deny the offender from enjoying the benefits of his crimes.

Tiang pleaded guilty yesterday to 10 criminal breach of trust charges and five counts of dealing with the benefits of his ill-gotten gains. Fifty-four other charges were considered during sentencing.

In 1990, Tiang joined Double Ace Trading Company, which managed four offshore companies: Esben Finance, Lismore Trading Company, Incredible Power and Rayley Co.

Tiang's tasks included preparing payment vouchers and recording the movement of funds in the four companies' bank accounts.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Lim said: "The trust reposed by the employers in the accused, a long-time employee, was so great that they would simply sign blank cheques for the accused based purely on his word that these cheques needed to be used for the business operations of the offshore companies."

But Tiang abused their trust and siphoned away their money by depositing the cheques into his own bank accounts. He also used false payment vouchers to unlawfully get hold of the funds.

DPP Lim said Tiang primarily used his ill-gotten gains for gambling activities and often placed weekly bets in excess of $100,000 with Singapore Pools.

He also visited the casino at Resorts World Sentosa about three times a week, spending about $20,000 on each visit.

On June 6, 2014, the Commercial Affairs Department received information that Tiang had misappropriated funds from the four offshore companies. Court documents did not reveal details on how Tiang's offences were discovered.

The authorities seized Tiang's assets, and he also surrendered the proceeds he obtained after selling items, including his car.

The total value of the items seized and surrendered came up to almost $3 million. Yesterday, DPP Lim said this sum was only about 6 per cent of the total amount misappropriated.

Before handing down the sentence, Judge Joseph said the amount still unaccounted for, totalling about $43 million, was "hugely disturbing". The judge also said Tiang had displayed an "egregious abuse of trust".

This article was first published in The New Paper. Permission required for reproduction.