Alleged mastermind of $1.4m casino fraud dead, court told

Lawyer says Laotian apparently had a heart attack; prosecution mulling over next move

A Laotian businessman who was facing a joint charge of colluding with 13 others to cheat the casino at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) has died, a court heard yesterday.

Sengmanivong Soum's lawyer Shashi Nathan told the court that the 53-year-old died, apparently from a heart attack, some time at the end of last month.

The lawyer, who had a photograph of the death certificate, said he was trying to to get the original or duplicate to be sent over.

Sengmanivong, the alleged mastermind of the syndicate, had been accused of colluding with 13 Thai nationals and other unidentified persons in a fraudulent scheme to obtain cash chips from a game of baccarat at the casino between May 6 and 7 in 2013.

Baccarat is a game in which bets are placed on either the bank or player to have a winning hand of two or three cards.

Sengmanivong, the alleged mastermind of the syndicate, had been accused of colluding with 13 Thai nationals and other unidentified persons in a fraudulent scheme to obtain cash chips from a game of baccarat at the casino between May 6 and 7 in 2013.

The prosecution says that the men had knowledge of a sequence of cards to place bets in order to win chips amounting to $1.41 million. The defence argued the games were won fair and square.

Sengmanivong also faced a second charge of helping several of the accused and others to steal a card carrier containing unused playing cards from a cabinet in the Paiza salon at the casino on May 6 that year. Paiza is a VIP salon for high rollers at the resort.

The prosecution said rehearsals for the scheme were conducted in 2013 in Manila, in the Philippines, some time in April, and also at Swissotel here in early May.

All 14 men arrived in Singapore in April. Several of them visited the Paiza salon to check it out and ensure that they could gain access to the locked card cabinet.

After about 100 days of trial, which began in 2014, the prosecution closed its case.

The defence was supposed to have begun its case yesterday when hearing resumed before District Judge Soh Tze Bian.

The prosecution, led by Deputy Public Prosecutors Terence Chua and Marshall Lim, is looking into how to proceed with the trial.

The maximum punishment under the Casino Control Act is seven years' jail and a fine. It is the same for a theft-in-dwelling offence.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2016, with the headline 'Alleged mastermind of $1.4m casino fraud dead, court told'. Print Edition | Subscribe