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Ex-CFO jailed 20 years after duping financial institutions, causing losses of more than $631m

Ex-CFO jailed 20 years after duping financial institutions, causing losses of more than $631m

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 18 Jan 2023
Author: Shaffiq Alkhatib

Singaporean Lulu Lim Beng Kim, 63 duped the financial institutions into providing her company with millions of dollars in trade financing in one of Singapore’s largest cases of trade financing fraud.

A commodity firm’s then chief financial officer (CFO) who duped 16 financial institutions worldwide and caused more than US$469 million (S$631 million according to court documents) in losses was sentenced to 20 years’ jail on Tuesday.

In earlier court proceedings, the prosecution said that this amount was “unprecedented and staggering” – almost as high as the $633.3 million victims in Singapore lost to all scams in 2021.

Lulu Lim Beng Kim, who was then working for Agritrade International, had duped the financial institutions into providing her company with millions of dollars in trade financing. The losses were incurred between January 2017 and November 2019.

They included major banks in Japan, South Korea, India and Taiwan.

Before handing down the sentence on Tuesday, District Judge Kow Keng Siong noted that according to defence lawyers Noor Mohamed Marican and Mohd Munir Marican, Lim was not the mastermind behind the offences and did not commit them for her personal gain.

In December 2022, Lim 63, pleaded guilty to 12 charges, including cheating and falsification of accounts. Twenty-four other charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

While serving as Agritrade’s CFO, Lim instructed her subordinates to submit to the institutions financial statements which were unaudited and false.

These documents were required by the financial institutions to assess how much credit they would extend to Agritrade.

The financial institutions would then disburse these sums to Agritrade’s suppliers for the purchase and sale of goods and other purposes.

Agritrade or customers of its supplied goods were then expected to repay the financial institutions at a later date.

The 16 finance houses disbursed more than US$586 million in total to the suppliers, Agritrade International and its subsidiaries.

Police said in a statement on Tuesday that Agritrade later defaulted on these loans, and the total loss suffered by the financial institutions was US$469.1 million.

Investigations revealed that the commodity firm’s senior management had helped to incorporate these subsidiaries or sat on their board of directors.

In January 2020, Agritrade, whose business included palm oil and coal mining, came under financial strain due to the collapse of oil and coal prices.

It also faced fraud allegations directed at chief executive Ng Xinwei and his father, Mr Ng Say Pek, who founded the business.

On Jan 15, 2020, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) started investigating Agritrade.

Lim left Singapore for Britain the next day and did not respond to attempts by the police to contact her over the next year.

An Interpol red notice was then issued against her.

She was arrested in January 2021, after the police received information that she was in the United Arab Emirates.

In earlier proceedings, Mr Noor Mohamed Marican, who heads law firm Marican & Associates, told the court that Lim claimed she was manipulated by Mr Ng Say Pek.

Court documents did not disclose the outcome of the cases involving the father and son.

Following Lim’s sentencing on Tuesday, CAD director David Chew said: “CAD would like to thank Interpol and our foreign counterparts for their assistance to arrest and send Lulu Lim back to Singapore to face justice for one of Singapore’s largest cases of trade financing fraud.”

For each count of cheating, an offender can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

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

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