MONEY LAUNDERING AND CHEATING
It is often said that crime doesn’t pay. That said, it seems that there are always some people who do not learn that lesson and try to make a quick buck by deceiving the innocent into parting with their hard-earned money.
The Singapore Courts handed out a stiff jail sentence following the Singapore’s investigations into the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.
Following a massive global inquiry into alleged misappropriation from the Malaysian state fund, Mr Yeo Jiawei, a former wealth planner with BSI Singapore, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 54 months in jail on charges of money laundering and cheating.
In an elaborate scheme, Yeo set up multiple illicit transactions involving 1MDB, from which he made a secret profit of at least US$3,500,000.00. He also laundered a portion of the money by transferring at least US$500,000.00 into his parents’ bank account.
In issuing this sentence, Principal District Judge Ong Hian Sun emphasised the need for Singapore’s Courts to take an “uncompromising stance” to ensure the safety of Singapore’s financial system.
In modern times, with online banking and international money transfers being so prevalent, it is all too easy to get scammed or worse, be involved in receiving “dirty money”. Considering Singapore’s harsh stance on financial crime, you could face hefty fines or even, jail time if you do not understand the implications of what you do.
What does the crime of cheating involve in Singapore?
Section 415 of Singapore’s Penal Code defines cheating as an offence in which a person (A) deceives another person (B) and either:
- fraudulently, or intending to cause wrongful loss to B or wrongful gain to A, causes B to deliver property to A; or
- intentionally causes B to do or omit to do something which B would not have done if he or she had not been deceived. The act or omission must also cause or be likely to cause damage or harm to any person in body, mind or property.
What are the punishments for cheating in Singapore?
The available punishments for cheating depend on the specific nature of the crime. The default punishment is up to three years’ imprisonment, fine, or both.
What about Cheating by personation?
This refers to the act of masking a person’s identity to deceive the victim. It is worth taking note that the maximum sentence is higher if the cheating involves ‘personation.’ This could happen when:
- the cheater personally pretends to be someone else.
- the cheater tells the victim that another person, usually the cheat’s accomplice, is someone else.
- the cheat substitutes one person for another.
If the cheating involves impersonation, then the punishment extends to five years’ imprisonment, fine, or both.
Cheating someone you know in Singapore
If the cheater knew that he or she was also likely to cause wrongful loss to someone whose interest he or she was bound to protect, either by law or by contract, then the punishment can extend to five years’ imprisonment, fine, or both.
Cheating of Property in Singapore
The cheating of Property attracts an even harsher punishment is imposed if the cheater dishonestly causes the victim to deliver property to the cheat. In this aggravated form of the offence, the cheater causes the victim to deliver any property to any person, or to make, alter or destroy the whole or any part of a valuable security. The maximum punishment extends to a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment for a term and a fine.
It is worth taking note that “property” does not have to mean your HDB house alone. It could mean objects as well. Items that are commonly involved in cheating are but not limited to, Mobile Phones, Jewelry and Vehicles.
What does the crime of money laundering involve in Singapore?
Traditionally, criminals and drug traffickers have used banks and other financial institutions to launder their ‘dirty’ money. That being said, Money laundering is a very serious crime in Singapore. It can be defined as the process of making ‘dirty’ money – the proceeds of criminal activity – appear ‘clean’ or legitimate.
There are four money laundering offences in Singapore law. These are governed by the Corruption, Drug, Trafficking and other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act (CDSA).
The CDSA targets two groups of offenders who engage in money-laundering activities: firstly, criminals who conceal the proceeds of their own criminal activities; and secondly, those who either aid a primary criminal in concealing the proceeds of his or her crimes or acquire those proceeds from the primary criminal.
It is important to note that It is an offence under the CDSA to do any of the following:
- conceal or disguise any property (or its nature, source, location, disposition, movement or ownership) which, in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, represents a criminals’ benefits from criminal conduct;
- convert or transfer that property or remove it from the jurisdiction; and
- acquire, possess or use that property.
Additionally, for those who assist or are involved in such an arrangement with a criminal, have committed an offence so long as he knows or has reasonable grounds to believe that the property has been cheated from the innocent party for the criminal’s benefit.
The punishment for any of these offences is up to 10 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to S$500,000. If the offender is a company, the maximum fine is S$1,000,000.00.
Does money laundering only affect big businesses and banks?
This is a common misconception as considering the prevalence of online banking and international transactions, anyone can be found liable for money laundering.
For example, in the case of Public Prosecutor v Ang Jeanette  SGHC 100, a 52-year-old small business owner was convicted of money laundering after following instructions from various individuals, as requested by her brother who claimed to be “in trouble,” to make a number of international money transfers involving sums in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What can I do if I suspect that someone is attempting to launder money in Singapore? If you suspect that someone is attempting to launder money or that a transaction is ‘tainted’ by criminal proceeds, you should file a Suspicious Transaction Report (STR) immediately.
Section 39(1) of the CDSA imposes a duty to disclose knowledge or suspicion that any property represents the proceeds of, or is linked to a criminal activity. Filing a STR fulfils this requirement and makes clear that you had the knowledge or reasonable grounds to suspect that the property or proceeds were directly or indirectly associated with criminal conduct or drug trafficking.
You could be found to have committed an offence under the CDSA if you fail to report a suspicious transaction, and if you are found guilty, you could face a fine of up to $20,000.00.
How We Can Help
If you have been charged with any of the offences mentioned in this article, I.R.B Law’s team of expert criminal lawyers can help to ensure that you receive the justice that you deserve.
If you find yourself in such a situation, our team of experienced Criminal Litigation Lawyers will be able to advise you on your matter. At I.R.B Law LLP we have experienced Criminal Litigation Lawyers who are passionate about justice and fairness. Our lawyers will be able to guide you through Singapore’s Criminal Justice System and each stage of the proceedings.
We firmly believe that everyone should be entitled to a second chance and be allowed the opportunity to turn over a new leaf and live life anew. Should you be in a position where you may need our assistance, please do not hesitate and contact us at [email protected] or call us at 6589 8913 so that we can advise you on your matter.
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