Singapore – A member of a syndicate involved in a S$2.5 million cross-border investment scam was sentenced to 12 years and one month in jail on Monday (Apr 19).
Chinese national Wei Yong, 44, pleaded guilty to five charges, including cheating and holding a fake Myanmar passport. Another six charges were considered during his sentencing, reported Channel News Asia.
He was a syndicate member who operated through shell companies and rented boardrooms as an office front at Marina Bay Financial Centre to attract rich investors. Investigators found he gambled heavily in Singapore casinos.
Wei was an odd-job worker in Hubei and Beijing before joining a syndicate sometime in 2015 and 2016, the court heard. The group hatched a plan in 2016 in Beijing to establish shell companies to cheat people of their money.
Reports noted that the shell companies included American Ageas PE Fund Inc, Pfizer Private Fund Inc and Nanyang Capital Management.
The syndicate targeted high-net-worth individuals, telling them that they could make a lot of money through the shell companies operating in financial hubs such as the United States and Singapore.
The court heard that the victims from China and South Korea were asked to transfer funds for administrative fees and other associated costs for fundraising.
They were also invited to talks and workshops on finance, investments and business in Singapore, China and the US.
The investors were also flown to the syndicate’s business office in Marina Bay Financial Centre to reassure them of the shell companies’ “credibility”.
The syndicate members would dress professionally and be present at the boardrooms to get the victims to sign contracts. In reality, the venues were rented on an ad hoc basis.
It was reported that four victims transferred funds ranging from 930,000 yuan (S$180,000) to 2.6 million yuan (S$500,000) between March 2017 and July 2019.
Once the money was received, the syndicate members would become uncontactable.
The Singapore Police Force (SPF) confirmed receiving multiple reports regarding a cross-border investment scam by a transnational criminal based in China since November 2017.
The SPF received 10 police reports from 10 victims based in China. They revealed having lost S$2.5 million in total.
Wei was arrested at Changi Airport in November 2019. The police also discovered a fake Myanmar passport with his photograph.
He admitted buying the passport for 40,000 yuan (S$8,160) in 2019 from a Chinese agent. He purchased the fake passport to enjoy the “benefits” of owning a Myanmar passport, such as buying and owning houses and land in Myanmar at lower prices.
Wei was caught trying to leave Singapore using his Chinese passport in an attempt to fly to Myanmar. He intended to return to Singapore using the fake passport.
As for his ill-gotten money, he had gambled most of it away at the Marina Bay Sands Casino and Resorts World Sentosa Casino.
Casino records revealed he had transacted S$30 million in Singapore casinos between May 2015 and November 2019.
To date, there has been no restitution made by Wei and his accomplices, reported CNA. Other syndicate members are still at large.
There was “considerable planning and premeditation in the brazen financial scam here”, said District Judge Marvin Bay.
“I note the meticulously planned attempts to inject a veneer of legitimacy that the fictitious companies had a business presence in Singapore included renting lavishly furnished boardrooms in Marina Bay Financial Centre 1 for meetings with and presentations to victims,” he said.
The judge added, “There is a need to deal decisively with syndicate-run scams of this nature”.
For each count of cheating, Wei could have been imprisoned up to 10 years and fined.
For his possession of a fake passport, he could have been imprisoned for up to 10 years and fined up to S$10,000./TISG
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