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18 years’ jail for elderly accounts clerk who swindled companies of S$46 million

SINGAPORE — Over a period of about seven years, an accounts clerk siphoned more than S$46 million from four offshore companies managed by his employer.

SINGAPORE — Over a period of about seven years, an accounts clerk siphoned more than S$46 million from four offshore companies managed by his employer.

He gambled away a sizeable chunk of the loot, blowing over S$100,000 a week on bets with Singapore Pools and around S$20,000 per visit to the Resorts World Sentosa casino, which he frequented about thrice a week.

Tiang Teng Hoong Richard, 69, was sentenced to 18 years’ jail on Thursday (Feb 7).

He was convicted of 10 charges of criminal breach of trust and five charges of using benefits from criminal conduct under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act.

Fifty-four other charges were taken into consideration for his sentencing, in what District Judge Mathew Joseph called a “hugely disturbing” and “heinous” case.

Tiang was employed by Double Ace Trading Company, which managed four offshore companies that typically bought timber from suppliers in Sarawak to sell to overseas customers, according to court documents.

Two of the offshore companies were incorporated in the British Virgin Islands and two were registered in Liberia. Each had a HSBC United States Dollar bank account and a Singapore Dollar bank account.

A long-time employee who had been responsible for the accounting matters of the offshore companies since 1990, Tiang was trusted by the authorised signatories of the bank accounts — three individuals named as Wong Kie Nai, Wong Kie Yik and Wong Kie Chie, who were based overseas and only briefly in Singapore.

On 300 occasions between Jan 2007 and March 2014, Tiang swindled the companies in two ways: He used false payment vouchers that had details of invoices that had already been paid for, and handed blank cheques or telegraphic transfer forms to the Wongs to sign. The blank cheques and forms were supposedly for the business of the offshore companies.

Of the S$46.2 million misappropriated, Tiang used S$380,000 to pay Kis Store, an authorised retailer for Singapore Pools, between January 2011 and February 2013. He used eight cash cheques to pay for his 4D and Toto bets.

He also spent S$580,300 at the Resorts World Sentosa casino on 12 occasions between July 2012 and November 2013.

The Commercial Affairs Department received information in June 2014 of Tiang’s misdeeds.

To date, around S$2.9 million — or 6.3 per cent of the misappropriated funds — has been recovered from Tiang, who will turn 70 in October.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Nicholas Lim said that Tiang treated the companies’ accounts as his “personal piggy bank” to fund his “extravagant gambling habit”.

“This is a textbook case of (criminal breach of trust) of the highest order, which has resulted in one of the highest monetary losses in Singapore’s history of financial crime,” DPP Lim told the court.

The sum involved was mind-boggling and Tiang had “egregiously abused” his employers’ trust, added DPP Lim, who called for a jail term of 18 years.

Tiang's lawyer Paul Loy pushed for a jail term of 14 years, citing his old age and cooperation with the authorities.

Tiang was employed by Double Ace up to last week and the company has forgiven his crimes, said Mr Loy without elaborating.

DPP Lim said that Tiang's age and the restitution made were already factored in.

“If not for (Tiang's) advanced age, this case would have been (heard) in the High Court,” he said. The maximum jail time that can be imposed by the State Courts is 20 years.

Agreeing with the prosecution's description of the enormity of the crimes, District Judge Joseph said the forgiveness of Tiang’s employer was not a relevant mitigating factor. 

Addressing Tiang after he was sentenced, the judge said: “I hope you can find peace out of this case.” 

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