Singapore — A fifty-eight-year-old former cleaner who participated in the biggest case of fraud against a public institution in the country has pleaded guilty to money laundering and was sentenced to two years and nine months in jail on Tuesday, June 4.
Manickam Pragasam, who was unemployed when he got involved in the scam, aided in the money laundering of over $1 million from the nearly $40 million in criminal proceeds from the SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) scam.
Mr Manickam pleaded guilty to three money laundering charges that involved almost $900,000. Also taken into consideration during sentencing were two other charges against him.
The SSG scheme provided for a subsidy for companies in Singapore which sent its workers on skills training courses with registered training providers. The subsidy covered over a portion of the training fees and could either be made out to the business where the worker was employed, or to the training provider.
To carry out the scam, a syndicate employed nine businesses registered in the country. Between May and October 2017, these nine businesses submitted a total of 8,386 grant applications for fraudulent course fees and a corresponding 8,391 claims to SkillsFuture Singapore.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Ivan Chua said that all in all, the nine businesses received around $39.9 million from SSG.
Mr Manickam had been asked by his friend, Vincent Peter, to work for him in September 2017. By September 12, Mr Vincent gave the cleaner two cheques with a total of $760,000 for Mr Manickam to encash at a Maybank outlet in Holland Village.
For this transaction, he received $20 from Mr Vincent.
The following week the cleaner encashed a check for Mr Vincent with the amount of $129,000 at a Maybank outlet in Ang Mo Kio.
Al three checks had been issued by two companies Kylin Consultants and KKL Firm.
“The accused had no knowledge of the companies issuing the cheques and he did not know anyone from these companies. The accused was not informed about the source of the funds but he did not ask Vincent where the funds came from.
Despite these circumstances, which gave the accused reasonable grounds to believe that the encashed monies represented another person’s benefits from criminal conduct, the accused willingly acceded to Vincent’s instructions and encashed all the cheques, in return for financial gains,” said DPP Chua.
Less than two months later, SSG filed a police report after it found that the nine businesses made an “abnormally high number” of course fee grant claim submissions.
Lee Chi Wai and Roger Quek Si Guang have already been convicted for the SSG fraud and have been sentenced to five years and eight months and Quek received three years and six months respectively.
In April, Tang Cheng, a Chinese national who had aided in the remittance of S$390,000 for two individuals involved in the scam, was given a fine of S$15,000 as well as a six-week jail sentence.
There are additional pending cases for the others involved in the scam, including Mr Vincent. After the scam was exposed, SSG created a dedicated fraud and enforcement division for evaluating suspicious claims.
Thirteen members of the syndicate who perpetrated the scam have been charged with forgery, cheating, perversion of justice and money laundering. Additional charges include the use of forged documents, cheating, failure to exercise reasonable diligence as directors of business entities and criminal conspiracy, were also filed.
The police said earlier this year that they had the cooperation and assistance of officials in Malaysia, Hong Kong, and China in capturing four syndicate members who left Singapore. /TISG