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$3b money laundering case: Last of 10 people to plead guilty given longest jail term of 16 months

$3b money laundering case: Last of 10 people to plead guilty given longest jail term of 16 months

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 08 Jun 2024
Author: Wong Shiying & Nadine Chua

Cypriot national Wang Dehai agreed to forfeit more than $49 million, or about 90 per cent of his seized assets, to the state.

The last of the 10 foreigners to plead guilty in the $3 billion money laundering case was sentenced to 16 months’ jail – the longest term meted out so far in the case.

Cypriot national Wang Dehai, 35, who pleaded guilty on June 7 to one money laundering charge, agreed to forfeit more than $49 million, or about 90 per cent of his seized assets, to the state.

Five other charges, including three counts of making a false statement to the Ministry of Manpower’s Controller of Work Passes, were taken into consideration during sentencing.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Louis Ngia said more than $54 million worth of assets, such as vehicles, cryptocurrencies and luxury items, had been seized from Wang. They include assets funded by Wang but held in the name of his wife, Su Caihuang, said the prosecutor.

The court heard that since 2012, Wang was involved in an illegal remote gambling business based in the Philippines that targeted punters in China. He started out as a customer service staff member before becoming a promoter and was given a 3 per cent share in the annual profit of the business.

In 2016, he was given 80 million yuan (S$15 million) for his role in the business. He received HK$8 million (S$1.4 million) in 2022.

Through their investigations, the police identified individuals involved in this online gambling business, said the prosecutor. They include Su Yongcan, who is Wang’s brother-in-law, and Wang Huoqiang, Wang’s cousin. They both have warrants of arrest and Interpol red notices issued against them for money laundering offences.

Two of the 10 convicted in the money laundering case are also connected to Wang Dehai through the illegal gambling business. They are Su Wenqiang, Wang’s cousin, who was recruited into the business in 2012, and Su Jianfeng, Su Yongcan’s brother-in-law, who joined the business in 2013.

Su Wenqiang was the first to plead guilty in the money laundering case and was sentenced to 13 months’ jail in April. He has since been deported to Cambodia. Su Jianfeng admitted to money laundering and forgery on June 6 and will be sentenced on June 10.

The DPP said Wang relocated to Singapore in 2018.

On his money laundering charge, the prosecution said Wang possessed a silver Rimowa suitcase that contained more than $2.2 million in cash.

After he was arrested on Aug 15, 2023, he was questioned by the police on the suitcase’s contents. He initially claimed the suitcase belonged to his wife, but later admitted the cash was his when instructed to open it.

In a statement to the police on Aug 18, 2023, Wang claimed the money came from cryptocurrency sales and mahjong winnings, and from funds given to him by his brother-in-law, Su Yongcan. In another statement on Aug 25, 2023, Wang said the money came entirely from Su Yongcan in the form of a loan.

DPP Ngia said Wang could not substantiate any of his claims about the sources of the cash, and failed to satisfactorily account for how he came by the money.

Seeking 16 to 17 months’ jail, the prosecutor said Wang laundered a total of about $25 million.

The DPP added that Wang’s offences involved a transnational syndicate and that his conduct reflected a broader abuse of Singapore’s financial infrastructure.

Defence lawyer Megan Chia sought 13 months’ jail for her client, and said in mitigation that Wang and his wife came to Singapore for their three children to be raised and educated here.

She said Wang’s forfeited assets include his family home – a condominium apartment in Paterson Hill, near Orchard Road. She added that when he moved to Singapore, he had ceased to be involved in illegal online gambling operations, though he still received payouts.

“There was no malicious intent, they wanted to lead a simple life in Singapore,” she added.

District Judge Sharmila Sripathy-Shanaz said in response that the defence’s submissions blatantly ignored the fact that Wang’s family home was bought using $23 million in illicit funds.

“I am somewhat perturbed by the (defence’s) characterisation of his family here in Singapore,” the judge added.

Before meting out the sentence, the judge said she found no force in the defence’s contention that the “chain reaction” these proceedings have wrought on Wang’s family is a factor that warrants moderation of the sentence.

“Defence counsel highlights the fact that Mr Wang and his family will be expelled from Singapore and are likely to be barred from re-entry,” she said.

“I can only say that Mr Wang sealed his family’s fate when he deliberately and flagrantly chose to flout the laws of this country.”

Wang was placed on China’s wanted list in 2017 for alleged links to an illegal gambling gang.

In the same notice, Su Jianfeng and Su Wenqiang were also named as major suspects.

More than $940 million in assets have been forfeited from the 10 convicted foreigners.

The police said on June 5 that the $3 billion in cash and assets seized in Singapore’s largest money laundering case belonged to 27 individuals, which include the 10 convicted. The remaining 17 people are under investigation.

Of the 10 convicted, Su Wenqiang, Su Haijin, Su Baolin, Wang Baosen, Vang Shuiming, Zhang Ruijin, Chen Qingyuan and Lin Baoying were jailed for between 13 and 15 months each.

Four of them – Su Wenqiang, Wang Baosen, Su Baolin and Su Haijin – were deported to Cambodia between May 6 and 28. Vang Shuiming was deported to Japan on June 1.

Source: Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

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