Man admits to role in scam to dupe financial institutions of $424 million in loans

SINGAPORE – The former chief financial officer of a crude oil products supplier admitted in a district court on Monday (April 26) that he had worked with three alleged accomplices to dupe eight banks into disbursing about US$320 million (S$424 million) in loans.

Prosecutors said this “complex, elaborate and nefarious” financial fraud by Ong Ah Huat and his alleged accomplices caused China Merchant Bank Singapore to suffer losses totalling about US$10 million.

The seven other banks are in Hong Kong – including Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong) and OCBC Limited (Hong Kong) – but court documents do not disclose the amount of losses they incurred.

Ong, now 61, who used to work for Coastal Oil (Singapore) and earned $15,100 a month, received benefits totalling about $325,000 in all.

The Singaporean pleaded guilty to 15 charges, including three counts of engaging in a conspiracy to cheat and nine counts of committing forgery for the purpose of cheating. Forty-three other charges will be considered during sentencing.

His alleged accomplices were his then colleagues at Coastal Oil, which has since entered liquidation.

The case involving Huang Peishi, now 35, who used to be the company’s treasury manager, is still pending.

Two others, Mr Tan Sing Hwa and Ms Carol Zong, fled Singapore before the Commercial Affairs Department started its investigation into the offences.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Thiagesh Sukumaran and Dhiraj Chainani stated in court documents that Ong joined Coastal Oil as its chief financial officer in May 2016.

He then found that the firm was facing severe cash flow issues and was not generating enough revenue to sustain its business.

Ong also learnt that Mr Tan, who was a co-director, had devised a scheme to obtain credit to address Coastal Oil’s financial woes and the ruse involved creating forged documents.

Ong agreed to continue perpetuating the scheme, which involved items such as forged sale and purchase contracts as well as tax invoices.

The DPPs said that Ong and the three others engaged in a conspiracy to cheat CMB and the seven Hong Kong banks between June 2017 and December 2018.

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The offences came to light when the acting managing director of one of Coastal Oil’s trading partners, Sinfeng Marine, lodged a police report on Jan 7, 2019.

The man told the authorities that Coastal Oil had submitted forged documents bearing Sinfeng’s company and contract seals as well as signatures of Sinfeng’s representatives.

Ong is now out on bail of $100,000 and he will be sentenced on May 3.

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

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