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Former law firm secretary jailed 30 months after helping man she met online launder more than S$1m

Former law firm secretary jailed 30 months after helping man she met online launder more than S$1m

Source: TODAY
Article Date: 24 Nov 2021
Author: Low Youjin

Annee Foong pleaded guilty to nine charges related to acquiring benefits from criminal conduct and failing to report about cross-border movements of cash exceeding S$20,000.

  • Annee Foong, 48, had dishonestly obtained in her bank accounts more than S$1 million on the instructions of a man she met online 
  • She pleaded guilty to nine charges related to acquiring benefits from criminal conduct, and failing to report about cross border movements of cash exceeding S$20,000
  • Her lawyer said she was a lonely woman who was manipulated

A former secretary at a law firm was sentenced to 30 months’ jail by a district court on Tuesday (Nov 23) for dishonestly obtaining more than S$1 million in her bank accounts on the instructions of a man she met online. 

Annee Foong, 48, pleaded guilty in October to nine charges related to acquiring benefits from criminal conduct and failing to report about cross border movements of cash exceeding S$20,000.

Forty-one other similar charges were taken into consideration for her sentencing.

THE CASE

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Eric Hu said that Foong befriended a “Steve Williams” on the social networking platform Badoo in July 2016. 

Williams claimed that he was a British citizen who worked as an engineer.

DPP Hu said Williams gave her his British mobile number and the pair communicated regularly through text messages on the messaging platform WhatsApp and through audio calls.

During one of their conversations, Williams asked Foong for her bank account numbers. He later transferred an unspecified amount of money to her accounts. 

Williams then instructed Foong to remit a sum to his secretary, a woman who claimed to be Malaysian called “Tina Razak”. The amount was not specified in court documents.

The remaining monies were meant for Foong to open several bank accounts for Williams, said DPP Hu. 

Foong said that Williams had also asked her to make multiple transfers to other bank accounts which were held by persons unknown to her and that she had allowed Williams access to her passwords for the newly opened bank accounts.

DPP Hu said that the police started investigating Foong between Sep 8 and Nov 18 that year.

During that time, the police warned her about the “suspicious nature” of the transactions and even cautioned her on five occasions not to open more bank accounts for Williams or to carry out his transactions. 

“She was specifically informed by the police officers that she was being investigated because her bank accounts had been used to receive monies from persons who had been cheated,” said the DPP Hu.

DPP Hu said that as a result, Foong had grown suspicious of Williams, and changed the passwords to six of her internet banking accounts in December to prevent him from accessing them to make transfers.

Still, she agreed to open another bank account for Williams on Oct 11, despite the multiple warnings from the police. 

Around Jan 13 the following year, she received US$315,000 (S$445,514.78) in one of her bank accounts.

DPP Hu said that five days later, the Commercial Affairs Department received a complaint from the chief executive officer of Capital Bank Limited, a commercial bank in Botswana, who said that fraudulent transfer of US$315,000 had been made from their New York bank account to Foong’s bank account.

DPP Hu said that Foong had received about S$3,800 from Williams during this entire time, though it was not mentioned what the purpose of this payment was for.  

LONELY WOMAN WAS MANIPULATED: DEFENCE 

In pleading for a lighter sentence for his client, defence lawyer Riko Isaac of Tembusu Law, said: “This is a case where a lonely woman was manipulated. She was yearning for love and relationship.” 

He said the mother of three children was feeling lonely after her divorce, and was searching for a “partner in life” and thought she had found it in Williams.

“She developed deep romantic feelings over time and trusted (Williams),” said Mr Isaac, who sought a punishment of either a fine or a jail term of not more than 26 months.

“Because of these deep romantic feelings, she was manipulated to do his bidding...which included the transfers of these monies which are subject to the charges.”

The lawyer added that his client was also suffering from persistent depressive disorder, which made her more susceptible to being groomed.

In response, District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt said Foong was working in a law firm at the time of the offences, and should have been in a “better position” to have spotted the red flags.

“She could have consulted her colleagues, lawyers in the firm, but she obviously did not,” he said.

District Judge Chay has granted permission for Foong to settle her personal affairs before the start of her sentence on Dec 1.

Copyright 2021 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

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