Singapore: Two Singaporean men, acting as nominee directors for shell companies, have been sentenced to jail following the unwitting involvement of their firms in facilitating the laundering of nearly $20 million. The funds primarily originated from both foreign and local companies victimized by scams, including business email compromise and impersonation schemes.
On November 30, Bernard Chng Kok Leng and Tay Chee Seng, both aged 49, received jail terms of six and four weeks, respectively. Chng admitted guilt to five charges of neglecting reasonable diligence in his directorial duties, while Tay pleaded guilty to three similar offences. They were also banned from serving as company directors for a five-year period.
The two men had approached Interconnect Consultancy, a corporate secretarial firm, in mid-2020 in response to online job advertisements seeking nominee directors. Tay, facing financial challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic, held odd jobs earning between $1,000 and $1,600 monthly.
Despite expressing concerns to Interconnect Consultancy about potential money laundering activities, they were reassured by the firm’s director, Lee Chia Yen, and colleague Lee Ay Ling, that all necessary checks would be conducted. The men were promised director’s fees of $250 every six months and were enticed by the prospect of a monthly “income” of $7,500.
Chng and Tay became nominee directors for 52 and 57 shell companies, respectively. Their role involved providing personal details to Interconnect Consultancy without overseeing any company affairs or bank transactions.
Some of the shell companies, with Chng and Tay as directors, received over US$14.6 million in scam proceeds. In one instance, a Belgian company transferred US$10 million to a UOB account of one of Chng’s firms, but the entire sum was subsequently remitted to various bank accounts in Hong Kong, China, and Singapore.
Tay’s shell firm received US$500,000, but the police managed to seize the full amount. Both men were aware of the risks of being nominee directors but chose to remain ignorant despite initial doubts.
In court, Chng claimed he was “duped” into the job but acknowledged lacking an excuse for neglecting due diligence. District Judge Wong Li Tein criticized Chng for relying on unreliable information and deemed the recklessness of both men deserving of jail terms.
Chng and Tay are part of a group of 12 individuals inadvertently aiding scammers in laundering over US$36 million through Singapore bank accounts. Foreign agents incorporated 35 local companies between July 2020 and February 2021 for this purpose.
Lee Chia Yen and Lee Ay Ling, from Interconnect Consultancy, face charges pending in court. On September 25, Chinese national Liang Jiansen was fined $9,000 and disqualified from being a company director for four years for his involvement in laundering US$3.4 million. On September 27, Er Beng Hwa, a jobless Singaporean nominee director for 186 companies, was fined $4,000 and disqualified from being a company director for three years after one of his firms was used to launder US$2.36 million.
Source: The Straits Times