First person jailed over $40m SkillsFuture scam; helped sister hide $6.7m at home

SINGAPORE - A jobless man who helped his sister and brother-in-law launder and hide part of the proceeds of their $40 million SkillsFuture scam - the largest case of a government agency being defrauded - was sentenced to five years and eight months' jail on Tuesday (Nov 27).

Lee Chi Wai, 30, had helped squirrel away $6.7 million in cash and 11kg of gold valued at $626,500 at his Sengkang flat.

He also used $282,500 to buy 5kg of gold and asked his sister for a $30,000 loan to buy a car for himself.

Lee is the first of five people charged in court over the scam last year to be sentenced.

The cases against his sister Lee Lai Leng, 40, her husband Ng Cheng Kwee, 42, the Lee siblings' mother Tan Yoon Nooi, 60, and Ng's friend David Lim Wee Hong, 40, are pending.

Ng is alleged to be the mastermind of the scam which netted nearly $40 million in fake claims from SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), a government agency that gives out grants and funding for lifelong training.

Between May and October last year, the syndicate used a network of nine business entities - three training providers and six applicant entities - to submit 8,386 fraudulent course fee grant applications and a corresponding 8,391 claims to SSG.

The applications and claims were submitted on the basis that training courses were purportedly provided by the three training providers to about 25,000 employees of the six applicant entities.

As a result, SSG disbursed $39.9 million in course fee subsidies.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.