Singaporean jailed in Australia for money laundering; mystery over A$600k in casino's safety deposit box: Report

Singaporean Koh San Wei allegedly deposited a total of A$1 million in a safety deposit box at Sydney casino The Star.
Singaporean Koh San Wei allegedly deposited a total of A$1 million in a safety deposit box at Sydney casino The Star. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

A Singaporean man was convicted of money laundering by an Australian court and sentenced to nine months in prison on Monday (Jan 18).

The judge, New South Wales chief magistrate Graeme Henson, had refused to buy Koh San Wei's complicated story of how he came into possession of A$1 million (S$991,000).

Koh had pleaded guilty to two counts of dealing with property suspected of being the proceeds of crime, reported local newspaper Newcastle Herald.

Judge Henson, in comments published in the sentence, said: "The facts are somewhat convoluted. They have a sense of being less than the full narrative."

Koh allegedly arrived in Australia in April last year and declared to customs officials that he was not carrying more than A$10,000.

All visitors to the country are required to fill in a form if they have the said amount in their possession.

A week after his arrival, Koh proceeded to deposit almost A$300,000 into a safety deposit box at The Star, a well-known casino in Sydney.

Another A$700,000 in cash was added to the box the following day.

Casino staff were alerted to Koh's suspicious behaviour - he subsequently gambled in the casino and made several withdrawals from the box - and called the police.

He was detained after the police found about A$600,000 left in the safety deposit box, Newcastle Herald reported.

Judge Henson said Koh had claimed during questioning that the A$700,000 deposit he made were the proceeds of a brothel business and belonged to his aunt living in Newcastle.

The aunt had asked Koh to collect it on behalf of her ex-husband, who was living in China, Koh claimed.

Koh said that his aunt was not at home when he visited her, and he took a suitcase he found in her bedroom after entering the house through an unlocked back door.

After opening the suitcase, he found A$700,000 and transferred A$100,000 to his uncle. The remaining A$600,000 was put into the casino's safety deposit box, Koh claimed.

However, Judge Henson noted that Koh could neither account for the initial deposit of A$300,000, nor the remaining A$200,000.

"It was implicit in the plea that he (Koh) knew the cash money was the proceeds of criminal activity."

Police investigations revealed that the "uncle" in China did not exist, while the aunt and her partner denied knowing Koh or of the A$700,000, reported Newcastle Herald.

While Judge Henson rejected the defence's argument for a suspended sentence, he reduced the sentence on account of Koh's assistance.

The court heard that Koh had given information that contributed to A$1.59 million of "tainted money" being confiscated. Two others were also charged with money laundering offences.

According to the Newcastle Herald, the remaining A$600,000 was seized and forfeited. Koh is expected to be deported upon his release.