Man behind S$1.18m scam tricked a victim by pretending to be Temasek Holdings employee with links to Ho Ching
Sathish Nair lied to his neighbour that he was an employee of Temasek Holdings and told the neighbour to put money into an investment programme under the company.
Sathish Nair forged signatures of high-profile figures such as Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat. He also used the name of Madam Ho Ching, chief executive officer of state investment firm Temasek Holdings, as a ruse to convince one victim to part with his money. Madam Ho is also Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife.
The 36-year-old Singaporean has now pleaded guilty to multiple charges of cheating, forgery and theft, in a case that involves more than S$1.18 million and at least 10 victims, including his friends.
The court heard on Friday (Oct 9) that Sathish faced a total of 61 charges, but the prosecution will be proceeding with just 20 of them. They are for:
- Eight counts of cheating
- Nine counts of forgery
Two counts of forgery of a valuable security
One count of theft in dwelling
The rest of the charges will be taken into account for his sentencing on Nov 16.
Court documents stated that Sathish’s crimes date as far back as 2014, with the last offence taking place around August 2017.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Lu Yiwei, who did not state Sathish’s occupation, said that the ill-gotten funds that he had received were transferred to his mother as well as an individual he cheated.
The money was also withdrawn as cash or payment transactions, but never for the purposes of investment, DPP Lu said without giving more details.
THE TEMASEK SCAM
One of the most egregious incidents raised by the prosecution happened in November 2014.
Sathish approached his now 56-year-old neighbour under the guise of an employee of Temasek Holdings.
Sathish told the victim that Temasek had allocated him some “lots” for “Temasek Investment”, a currency exchange investment programme that Sathish concocted. He claimed that money invested into this programme would double in a period of a month.
DPP Lu said that the victim trusted Sathish and even received phone text messages and calls from someone who claimed to be Madam Ho Ching.
The victim first handed over a sum of S$42,500 to Sathish, who provided a handwritten note stating that the victim would receive a total return of S$85,000.
However, when the returns of the supposed investment were due, Sathish persuaded his victim not to withdraw the sum, but to continue investing the principal sum.
This modus operandi carried on until mid-2016, and the victim gave Sathish S$207,100.
Sathish would reassure the victim by giving him items such as a Samsung mobile phone and a Rolex watch, which he claimed were tokens of appreciation from Temasek.
He also produced various letters related to the victim’s supposed investment with Temasek — which included a forged signature from Madam Ho — the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Malaysia), and the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ Bank).
Sathish’s scheme started to unravel because he went too far in his efforts to portray the legitimacy of the Temasek Investment, DPP Lu said.
In 2016, Sathish told the victim that Madam Ho had offered to help him with any problem since he had been investing with Temasek.
The victim asked for help with regard to a loan that he had given to a friend who was declared bankrupt.
The victim then received a phone text message from someone claiming to be Madam Ho, who told the victim that his friend had hidden all his money in Thailand, and a team of officers from the Commercial Affairs Department had been sent to investigate and retrieve the money.
The victim also asked for financial help for his wife’s post-degree programme and his daughter’s education. He again received a response from someone claiming to be Madam Ho, saying that she would arrange for scholarships for his wife and daughter.
In April 2017, the victim sent a message to the imposter that his daughter’s school fees were due and he needed money. The person impersonating Madam Ho said that the fees would be credited directly into his daughter’s account.
The victim became suspicious when this did not happen, so he called up Sathish who gave excuses that Madam Ho was not feeling well and needed to rest.
The victim then called the police on Nov 3 in 2017 and Satish was detained, DPP Lu said.
While it was not made clear in court if Sathish was impersonating Madam Ho during this period, he has made partial restitution to the victim of S$157,599.83 in total.
In cases involving other victims, Sathish forged letters by various government ministries and bodies, banks, and a law firm as a way to delay returning money to them.
Some of these forgery cases included signatures purportedly from Mr Ravi Menon, the managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, and Mr Heng Swee Keat in his capacity as the Minister for Finance.
The respective banks, ministries, governmental bodies and firms confirmed that the said letters and cheques that the accused gave to the victims were not authentic and were not issued by them.
STEALING FROM HIS FATHER
Sathish’s single charge of theft involves four cheques belonging to his now 71-year-old father.
In August 2017, Sathish stole the cheques and then use his father’s forged signature to issue cheques bearing S$150,000 each to three victims of his investment scam.
He did so because the victims were demanding to get their investment funds. All four cheques bounced due to insufficient money in his father’s bank account.
Sathish’s father has posted his bail of S$50,000.
- Sathish Nair, 36, admitted to cheating, forgery and theft
- At least 10 people were fooled in a case involving more than S$1.18 million
- Some of his scams involved deceiving people into thinking that he represented Temasek Holdings
- He is scheduled to return to court on Nov 16 for sentencing
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