Hearing starts in case against former AIA agent

Low is said to have "perpetrated an elaborate and prolonged scheme of deception" on an Indonesian couple to make them part with their money, to her benefit.
Low is said to have "perpetrated an elaborate and prolonged scheme of deception" on an Indonesian couple to make them part with their money, to her benefit. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Sally Low faces 19 charges totalling $8.89m in claims after she retracts guilty plea in 2014

The long-awaited criminal trial involving former AIA agent Sally Low began yesterday.

Low, 38, had retracted her guilty plea in June 2014 to charges of duping Indonesian businessman Ong Han Ling, 77, into buying a bogus AIA Thank You insurance policy for US$5.06 million (S$6.8 million).

Yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Hon Yi said he is proceeding on all 19 charges totalling $8.89 million in claims against Low. Four of the charges are for cheating, 11 for fraudulent use of forged documents and four are under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act.

Mr Hon said in his opening statement that Low "perpetrated an elaborate and prolonged scheme of deception" on Mr Ong and his wife to make them part with their money, to Low's benefit.

The saga began in late 2002 when Mr Ong was allegedly sold a fake policy by Low, then an AIA agent. Mr Ong claimed that after he remitted the premium, Low, without his knowledge or consent, used the funds to buy four AIA policies for him, his wife and their daughter.

He alleged that midway through the tenure of the AIA Thank You policy, Low deceived him into giving the insurance proceeds from three of the unauthorised policies to her by use of fabricated computer errors. Her scheme came to light in 2008 after Mr Ong learnt from AIA that the Thank You policy was bogus.

The insurer made a police report against Low and sacked her in December 2009. Mr Ong also made a police report against Low in January 2010 for allegedly cheating him of money. He sued her for damages totalling US$2.25 million and $2.99 million.

In May 2011, she was charged with 19 criminal offences, including cheating the Ongs, using forged documents and money laundering.

In December 2013, Low pleaded guilty to two charges of cheating, one charge of fraudulent use of forged documents and one charge of moving crime proceeds to a bank account in Hong Kong.

The prosecution's offer to proceed with these four charges, with the remaining 15 charges taken into consideration, lapsed when she retracted her guilty plea six months later. Low also claimed she was a victim of a ploy with Mr Ong to cheat AIA instead.

Yesterday, Mr Hon cross-examined Mr Tan Wah Kiong, who was the previous investigating officer of the case when he was with the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD).

The other witnesses in the trial include Health Sciences Authority handwriting expert Yap Bei Sing, former AIA manager Raymond Chew, the Ongs and former private banker Constance Lim.

Low's lawyer is Mr Adrian Wee of Characterist LLC. Low, who was made bankrupt by her previous set of lawyers, has had six sets of lawyers acting for her, and her sentencing date has been postponed several times.

She had previously admitted herself to the Institute of Mental Health, but was certified fit to plead and stand trial.

Meanwhile, the Ongs are suing AIA and Motion Insurance Agency for negligence and lack of care.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2016, with the headline 'Hearing starts in case against former AIA agent'. Print Edition | Subscribe