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Su Wenqiang, accused in $3b money laundering case, sentenced to 13 months’ jail

Su Wenqiang, accused in $3b money laundering case, sentenced to 13 months’ jail

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 03 Apr 2024
Author: Wong Shiying & Nadine Chua

The 32-year-old is the first of 10 foreign nationals to be convicted over a probe, led by the Commercial Affairs Department, that saw more than $3 billion in cash and assets seized.

Cambodian national Su Wenqiang was sentenced to 13 months in jail after he pleaded guilty on April 2 to money laundering.

The 32-year-old is the first of 10 foreign nationals to be convicted over a probe, led by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), that saw more than $3 billion in cash and assets seized.

The prosecution sought 12 to 15 months in jail for Su, noting his early plea of guilt and his willingness to forfeit his assets worth over $5.9 million to the state.

These assets include luxury items such as a Graff diamond ring, a pair of Dior earrings, a Tiffany & Co bracelet, a Prada bag, a Toyota Alphard vehicle, bottles of Macallan Scotch whisky and cash.

Su’s defence lawyers sought 11 months in jail for their client.

Su admitted to two money laundering charges over his possession of more than $600,000 in cash – benefits from unlawful remote gambling offences – and the use of $500,000 in criminal benefits to buy a Mercedes-Benz car.

Another nine charges were taken into consideration for his sentencing. They comprise six for money laundering, one for possessing a forged marriage certificate and two for making false statements to the Ministry of Manpower.

Su, who held passports from Cambodia, Vanuatu and China, appeared in court via video link at around 10.30am. He listened without expression as the statement of facts was read out to him.

He has been in remand for about eight months since his arrest on Aug 15, 2023.

Su was apprehended in a good class bungalow in Lewis Road in Bukit Timah, which he was renting, when the police conducted islandwide raids at luxury homes across Singapore.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Grace Teo told the court that, some time in 2019, Su took part in online gambling activities while he was living in Manila, in the Philippines.

Through it, he got to know a person identified in court as A, who roped him in to work for an illegal remote gambling business based in the Philippines.

The business targeted people in China and ran a website which allowed its customers to place bets through their mobile phones. It is an offence in China to provide online gambling services for people there. 

Su reported to A for work, and subsequently found out that the boss of the operation was an unknown person from Taiwan.

Among other duties, Su managed the staff who maintained one of the business’ online gambling websites.

The DPP said Su shared in the profits the syndicate made every month. In 2021, he moved to Singapore as his wife wanted their two young children to study here.

While in Singapore, Su continued to work for the illegal gambling business and flew to the Philippines regularly for work.

In June 2023, he contacted a person, identified in court as B, who managed the finances of the illegal gambling business.

Su asked for his share of the proceeds and B, who was also residing in Singapore at the time, offered to pay him $1 million.

Later that month, Su went to B’s home with two pieces of luggage and B gave him $1 million in cash. Su took the money home and kept it in a safe.

During the police’s raid in 2023, $601,706 in cash was found in Su’s safe. This sum was the balance of the $1 million in cash and represents benefits from criminal conduct, said the prosecution.

Su’s involvement in providing the gambling service while he was in Singapore also constitutes an offence here, added the DPP.

In September 2021, nearly $5 million in criminal proceeds from the gambling business were transferred to a Citibank account controlled by Su, who has been on China’s wanted list for illegal online gambling activities since 2017.

On Jan 28, 2022, Su withdrew $502,431 in cash from the Citibank account to buy a Mercedes-Benz AMG C 63 S car.

Seeking 12 to 15 months in jail for each charge, and for the sentences to run concurrently, DPP Edwin Soh said money laundering is a serious offence that facilitates international criminals enjoying their ill-gotten gains.

The DPP highlighted what Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo said in Parliament in October 2023 – that criminals will try to exploit Singapore’s economic openness and strong reputation for the rule of law to launder illicit funds.

As such, DPP Soh said there is a pressing need to deter money laundering offences to maintain Singapore’s reputation as a legitimate financial hub.

He raised three aggravating factors in Su’s case. First, the offences involved a transnational syndicate, which made it more difficult for law enforcement to detect his crimes.

Second, the amount of money involved in this case was substantial – over $1.1 million for Su’s two proceeded charges, and over $1.5 million for all his money laundering charges.

Third, nine charges were taken into consideration for Su’s sentencing.

Defence lawyer Nandwani Manoj Prakash said the assets confiscated from Su represent the entirety of his earnings from the illegal gambling business.

“The confiscation is total, it is complete, and the effect this will have on (Su) is devastating as it leaves him with nothing,” he added.

The lawyer said that while Su’s conduct was criminal in nature, the activities were not targeted at Singapore, and caused low to no harm to Singapore society.

DPP Soh disagreed, saying Su had laundered criminal proceeds through Singapore’s financial system.

The defence lawyer said that his client indicated that he wanted to plead guilty on March 7, just five weeks after he was handed his last set of charges on Jan 31.

“In coming forward at an early stage, Su demonstrated courage, humility and a sense of personal accountability for the offences,” Mr Prakash said in his written mitigation plea.

Senior District Judge Ong Hian Sun said he agreed with the prosecution that general deterrence should be the predominating sentencing principle in this case, which constitutes the largest money laundering probe in Singapore.

The judge said that in meting out his sentence, he took into account Su’s cooperation, plea of guilt and restitution.

Su’s sentence will be backdated to the date of his arrest.

After sentencing, the defence asked the judge if Su could, after his release from prison, take three weeks to settle his affairs before leaving Singapore.

In response, Judge Ong said such matters are not decided by the courts.

The Singapore Police Force released a statement after the sentencing that said it has seized all illicit funds Su brought into Singapore.

Mr David Chew, director of CAD, added: “Law enforcement, the Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office and regulatory agencies will continue to work together to better detect complex money laundering, arrest the criminals, charge them and deprive them of their ill-gotten gains.”

For each charge of money laundering, an offender can be jailed for up to 10 years, fined up to $500,000, or both.

Cypriot national Su Haijin, 41, who faces 14 charges, is set to be the next accused to plead guilty, on April 4.

Chinese national Wang Baosen, 32, who faces two money laundering charges, is expected to plead guilty on April 16.

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

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