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$3b money laundering case: Man gets jail, forfeits highest amount of assets seized

$3b money laundering case: Man gets jail, forfeits highest amount of assets seized

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 15 May 2024
Author: Christine Tan & Wong Shiying

Vang Shuiming was sentenced to 13 months and six weeks’ jail after pleading guilty to two counts of money laundering and one count of submitting a forged document to a bank.

The accused in Singapore’s $3 billion money laundering case who faced the most number of charges has also forfeited the most amount of assets seized to the state.

Vang Shuiming, 43, was sentenced to 13 months and six weeks’ jail after pleading guilty on May 14 to two counts of money laundering and one count of submitting a forged document to a bank.

Nineteen other charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

Vang agreed to forfeit about $180 million of the more than $199 million worth of assets, cash, vehicles, properties and luxury items belonging to him and his wife which were seized by the police.

This is the highest amount forfeited by an accused person in this case, so far.

Five others convicted had forfeited between $5.9 million and $165 million in assets.

Vang forfeited about $122 million in bank, portfolio and wealth accounts, 15 properties worth $29.6 million in total, and three luxury cars – a Rolls-Royce Phantom, a Toyota Alphard and a Bentley Flying Spur – worth $3.38 million in all.

Other items include eight watches worth $17.4 million in total, from brands such as Patek Philippe, Richard Mille, Franck Muller and Chopard, and a Kawai crystal grand piano worth $240,000.

Also known as Wang Shuiming, the Turkish national who is originally from China is one of 10 foreigners arrested in a money laundering probe in August 2023 that saw more than $3 billion in cash and assets seized.

Vang faced 22 charges in total – four counts of money laundering and 18 counts of submitting forged financial documents to banks.

Deputy Public Prosecutor David Koh told the court that in 2021, Vang arranged for HK$229 million (S$39.6 million) to be remitted from Indonesia to his Citibank Singapore account.

When Citibank asked him about the source of these funds, Vang submitted documents through former Citibank employee Wang Qiming, claiming the money came from his own China Merchant Bank account.

However, Vang later admitted he had submitted a forged bank statement to Citibank. He did not actually have a China Merchant Bank account.

UOB Kay Hian and Swiss bank Bank Julius Baer & Co, whom Vang had accounts with, also queried him on his source of wealth.

Vang told them his money came from three companies in China, and provided financial statements from these firms to substantiate his claim.

These statements were all forged, said DPP Koh.

Vang’s money laundering charges state he had a total of about $2.4 million held in four bank accounts, purportedly benefits from criminal conduct.

He eventually admitted to the police that he used falsified books of accounts to move funds from overseas to Singapore.

After his arrest, Vang told the police that the source of his funds was his loan business in China – a claim he maintained in 18 statements.

He later said all the money came from gambling winnings and real estate investments in the Philippines.

DPP Koh noted that Vang had not substantiated his claim that the funds were indeed from the Philippines, and said he failed to account satisfactorily for how he came to possess the money.

The prosecution sought a total of 14 to 16 months’ imprisonment, while his defence lawyer Wendell Wong asked for 13 months.

Mr Wong said his client felt a profound sense of remorse and wanted to apologise to the court and to the Singapore Government.

Said Mr Wong: “He did not intend to cause harm to Singapore, Singaporeans or any persons in Singapore.

“Mr Vang’s hope is that in agreeing to forfeit (the) $180 million, it will go to some measure to restore any actual or perceived harm the justice system may feel he has committed.”

The lawyer added that Vang had brought his entire family to Singapore around five years ago, including his three children and elderly parents.

District Judge Sharmila Sripathy-Shanaz said Vang’s offences disclose an entrenched and concerted effort to deceitfully legitimise funds and circumvent checks.

Said the judge: “I find myself unable to accept the defence’s curious and ultimately strained characterisation of Mr Vang as an individual who had not intended to cause any trouble in Singapore.”

Judge Sharmila added that Vang’s decision to surrender his assets is reflective of his contrition, and that she gave significant weight to this factor in sentencing.

Vang has been remanded for almost nine months since his arrest at a good class bungalow at Bishopsgate, near Orchard Road, on Aug 15, 2023. With one-third remission, he may be out of jail by early June.

Originally from Fujian province in China, Vang is wanted by the Chinese authorities for his involvement in the Heng Bo Bao Wang gambling syndicate uncovered in 2022.

His brother, Wang Shuiting, is allegedly an associate of the syndicate. The brothers are among nine members of the gang on the run from the Chinese authorities.

In a bail review hearing, Vang admitted to having more than $35.5 million worth of assets overseas. The judge who denied him bail said this shows he clearly has the means to relocate comfortably.

Vang is the sixth person in Singapore’s largest money laundering case to be convicted.

Su Wenqiang, Wang Baosen, Zhang Ruijin, Su Haijin and Su Baolin were sentenced to between 13 and 15 months’ jail in April.

Su Wenqiang and Wang Baosen, both 32, were deported to Cambodia on May 6 after serving about 8½ months of their 13-month jail term.

Their sentences were backdated to their date of arrest on Aug 15, 2023.

Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam said in a written parliamentary reply on May 8 that the convicted foreigners in the money laundering case will be deported after serving their sentence.

Nine of the 10 foreigners in the case, including Vang, have Cambodian citizenship.

Even after being deported to Cambodia after their release, they could possibly be extradited to China. Beijing has an extradition treaty with Phnom Penh, but not with Singapore.

The cases of the remaining four – Lin Baoying, Su Jianfeng, Wang Dehai and Chen Qingyuan – are pending. Chen is expected to plead guilty on May 23.

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

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