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Money laundering accused lied about being a fugitive from China; S’pore court rejects bail request

Money laundering accused lied about being a fugitive from China; S’pore court rejects bail request

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 18 Nov 2023
Author: Wong Shiying & Andrew Wong

Money laundering suspect Chen Qingyuan is listed in a wanted notice, with the authorities in China looking to arrest him over fraud allegations.

Money laundering suspect Chen Qingyuan was denied bail on Nov 17, with the court calling him out for lying to the authorities about his status as a fugitive from China.

Chen, an accused in the $2.8 billion money laundering probe in Singapore, is listed in a wanted notice, with the authorities in China looking to arrest him over fraud allegations.

In arguing against granting Chen bail, investigation officer Poon Chee Ming from the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) described Chen as a high flight risk.

He added that the Chinese national, who also holds passports from Cambodia and Dominica, is a fugitive from the law.

But Chen, in his affidavit, said it was “entirely untrue” that he is wanted by the Chinese authorities, adding that he was “entirely unsure” of the basis for the investigation officer to make the claim.

His lawyer, Mr Gary Low from Drew and Napier, said the wanted notice submitted by the investigation officer had come from a dubious source – an anonymous post on a Chinese Internet platform – and urged the court to give it no weight.

In response, Deputy Public Prosecutor Foo Shi Hao said the wanted notice in question contains Chen’s name and identification number, as well as his household registration and address in China.

The DPP added that Chen himself had earlier admitted to the investigation officer that he avoided travelling back to China because of his status as a wanted person.

At least two other accused people in the probe – Su Wenqiang and Vang Shuiming, also known as Wang Shuiming – are wanted by the authorities in China for their alleged involvement in illegal online gambling activities.

Cambodian national Su Wenqiang, 31, currently faces two money laundering charges in Singapore.

Turkish national Wang Shuiming, 42, faces five charges – one count of using a forged document and four counts of money laundering.

Chen, 33, faces four charges relating to possessing cash, bank accounts, cars and cryptocurrency worth more than $8 million said to represent benefits from criminal conduct.

Each charge carries a maximum jail term of 10 years and a fine of up to $500,000.

In his application for Chen to be granted bail, Mr Low said his client is not a flight risk as he has strong roots in Singapore.

“My client has been living here for over four years and his family, comprising his girlfriend Wang Qiujiao and their three children, have been here for more than six years.

“Ms Wang, who is a Chinese national, is facing investigations by the CAD and has not been remanded. Why would she not up and go with her kids if the family does not have real roots here?” Mr Low added.

Chen’s family moved to Singapore in January 2017. He joined them about 30 months later, in September 2019.

In arguing that Chen is a flight risk, DPP Foo said the Chinese national has the means to relocate and acquire new passports as he has millions of dollars overseas in countries such as Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and China.

In his affidavit, investigation officer Poon said Chen claimed that he had obtained Cambodian citizenship by investing around US$150,000 (S$202,000) in a construction project there.

Chen also said he secured Dominican citizenship by donating and investing US$50,000 and US$60,000, respectively, in the island nation.

DPP Foo said: “The accused was able to obtain passports through financial means alone. In the case of Dominica, he claims never to have entered the country before.

“Thus, there is every reason to believe that the accused has the means to procure a new passport through similar methods.”

The prosecution added that Chen faces serious charges in Singapore and there are reasonable grounds to believe that he is guilty.

DPP Foo said: “The accused claimed that Hicloud, which he calls his chief business venture in Singapore, is the source of assets in one of his charges involving more than $6 million.

“CAD’s calculations indicate that his salary accounts for less than 2 per cent of said funds.”

Chen’s lawyer and the DPP also sparred over whether there is a risk of witness tampering or collusion with other suspects if Chen were to be released on bail.

Mr Low said Chen has not been shown to be linked to the other nine foreign nationals rounded up by the police on Aug 15 in the probe.

He added that the authorities have allowed Ms Wang, Chen’s girlfriend, to visit him in prison. “This clearly demonstrates that the authorities do not fear any collusion between my client and Ms Wang,” he said.

DPP Foo countered by saying that the risk remains as investigations are ongoing and further statements from both parties may be required in areas not previously covered.

In denying Chen bail, District Judge Brenda Tan said there is basis to believe Chen is a flight risk.

“The accused faces serious charges involving large sums of money that may result in a long custodial term. This gives him the incentive to flee and relocate with his family if he is offered bail,” she added.

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


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