Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

Catholic Spirituality Centre’s former admin director jailed for embezzling more than S$600,000

SINGAPORE — For about five years, the former director of administration of the Catholic Spirituality Centre forged invoices, altered cheques and made false payment claims, embezzling more than S$600,000 from the organisation.

Francis Xavier Wan Kwong Yee, 66, cheated the centre not because he was in debt or had any specific purpose for the money, but because he was greedy and tempted.

Francis Xavier Wan Kwong Yee, 66, cheated the centre not because he was in debt or had any specific purpose for the money, but because he was greedy and tempted.

Follow us on Instagram and Tiktok, and join our Telegram channel for the latest updates.

SINGAPORE — For about five years, the former director of administration of the Catholic Spirituality Centre forged invoices, altered cheques and made false payment claims, embezzling more than S$600,000 from the organisation.

Francis Xavier Wan Kwong Yee cheated the centre not because he was in debt or had any specific purpose for the money, but because he was greedy and tempted.

On Wednesday (March 13), the 66-year-old was sentenced to 52 months’ jail for 15 offences including forgery and criminal breach of trust. Another 29 similar charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.

Wan volunteered full-time and served as the centre’s administration director from 2004 to 2014, the court heard.

The centre, located along Upper Serangoon Road, is part of the Titular Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Singapore, and it provides services including prayer retreats and evangelical missions to church members and the public.

In his role, Wan supervised the centre’s accounts staff members and was given authority to prepare cheques and arrange payments to vendors and suppliers.

He would hand prepared cheques to the centre’s authorised signatories for payment to proceed.

When he paid out of his own pocket because cheques were not ready, Wan could also claim payment from the centre.

During the time he was the director of administration, the centre had a policy of transferring excess funds to the Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore via cheque payments.

During the period between July 27, 2010 and Sept 26, 2014, Wan forged three cheques issued by the centre to the Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore.

SPELLING ‘MISTAKES’ MADE

While preparing the cheque, Wan would deliberately make a minor spelling error.

He then corrected the mistake and explained to the authorised signatories that he needed their counter-signature against the correction.

Once the signatures had been obtained, he would cancel the name and write down his own. He then banked the cheques — worth a total of S$370,000 — into his personal account.

Sometime in 2011, a priest from Myanmar called Father Peter Awng La came to Singapore to seek medical treatment. A member of the Catholic Spirituality Centre arranged for him to be treated at Mount Alvernia Hospital.

Wan was in charge of the administrative details of the priest’s hospitalisation, including making payment from the centre’s funds.

The medical expenses amounted to nearly S$67,000, of which S$32,000 came from two donations. The remainder came from the Catholic Spirituality Centre, either through Wan or the member.

In August 2011, Wan instructed the centre's staff members to issue two cheques amounting to S$45,000. They were meant for the member, but he altered the name to his own, and deposited them into his bank accounts.

He then made a cheque for S$25,000 to pay for the medical expenses incurred and pocketed the remaining amount.

The court heard that he used it to repay loans and bills, and for his personal expenses.

FORGED, DUPLICATED INVOICES

In February 2013, Wan duplicated an invoice to claim reimbursement twice.

He paid S$9,416 out of his own pocket as a deposit to a food caterer engaged for an event.

He submitted the invoice to the Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore to make a reimbursement claim.

Wan photocopied the invoice and made a second claim with the Catholic Spirituality Centre, without informing the centre that he had already submitted a claim. The centre paid him the full amount.

Between September 2009 and November 2013, Wan also forged 10 invoices issued by vendors that the Catholic Spirituality Centre had engaged for improvement and maintenance works.

He photocopied genuine invoices and removed certain details before photocopying the altered copies again to create blank invoice templates.

He also created false invoices on the computer, printed them and forged the vendor’s signature.

After forging the invoices, Wan would write a cheque purportedly issued by him to the vendor, making it appear as if he had made an out-of-pocket payment and was claiming reimbursement.

The 10 invoices were worth more than S$86,000, court documents showed.

NOT NEED, BUT GREED AND TEMPTATION

Wan’s ruse started unravelling on Nov 28, 2014 when one of the authorised signatories, Reverend Father Jude David, received a call from the bank to check if the centre had issued a cheque of S$100,000 originally payable to the Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore, but altered to Wan’s name.

Father Jude confronted Wan about it and he admitted to his offence.

He then issued two cheques from his account — worth S$300,000 — to the Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore, for the purported reason of transferring excess funds.

On Dec 26, 2014, the accounts and finance division of the Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore discovered another two cheques that had been forged.

The centre’s former spiritual director, Reverend Father Andrew Wong, reported Wan’s offences on Jan 9, 2015.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Lim told the court that Wan admitted he “was neither in debt nor had any specific purpose for the proceeds of crime, but committed the offences out of greed and temptation”.

The prosecutor urged the court to impose a jail term of at least 54 months.

DPP Lim said that the offences were “certainly not opportunistic crimes or committed in the heat of the moment or a lapse of judgment on the part of an offender who acted out of character”.

There was clear premeditation on Wan’s part, and he abused the trust placed in him as administration director, he said.

District Judge Mathew Joseph told Wan: “Let this not be the end for you, but a new beginning. You can redeem yourself in other ways.”

Wan will start serving his sentence on Friday. Defence lawyer Jimmy Yim said that his client wanted to “go to church for Lent”.

Read more of the latest in

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.