Company director jailed for being 'corporate money mule' for overseas syndicate

Abdul Ghani Tahir was was convicted for breaching the Companies Act and the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act.
Abdul Ghani Tahir was was convicted for breaching the Companies Act and the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act. PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A director of a company which engaged in money laundering involving some $1.2 million was on Thursday jailed for 26 months and four weeks.

Abdul Ghani Tahir, 51, was convicted on seven counts after an eight-day trial last year, for breaching the Companies Act and the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act.

He was also ordered to pay $3,992 in cost to the prosecution, and will be disqualified from being a company director for five years after he serves his sentence.

He applied successfully for bail, pending an appeal, but still faces 16 similar counts involving another two of his companies which are at a pre-trial stage.

The total amount of alleged illicit fund transfers in and out of his three companies is about $2 million.

Abdul Ghani, who is also a former finance secretary of Malay-Muslim non-governmental organisation Majlis Pusat, is also accused of cheating the Singapore Tourism Board and other government agencies for inflating expenses incurred in the 2012 Hari Raya Aidilfitri light-up project in Geylang Serai. That case is pending another trial.

Abdul Ghani is a chartered accountant and the owner of company which provides corporate secretarial services to small and medium enterprises. As part of these services, he incorporates companies on behalf of clients and acts as the resident director of companies whose directors are overseas.

Recent records show that he has held various appointments in more than 110 business entities here, mostly in roles such as director and/or secretary.

In December 2011, he incorporated World Eastern International on behalf of a Romanian man, consenting to be its director, even though he had never met the foreigner. The company's was supposedly for the "wholesale of parts and accessories for vehicles".

But between April 11 and May 28, 2012, $403,867 in stolen money was deposited into the company's bank account, and $795,802 was transferred out, to accounts in China, Morocco, USA, Geneva and Hong Kong.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Ang Feng Qian asked for 30 months' jail, noting that Abdul Ghani is the first person to be prosecuted as a "corporate money mule".

She also asked for $24,907 in cost for the "unnecessary and extravagant expenditure of state resources in order for witnesses to testify to matters that were not disputed by the defence". She noted, for example, that a Sudanese victim testified for over an hour, but was cross-examined for only 12 minutes.

Defence lawyer Dilip Kumar asked for a fine or a short jail term. He said: "The accused was not dishonest (but) merely negligent."

In passing sentence, District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan said he found the breach of director's duties to be egregious in nature. Abdul Ghani failed to exercise "reasonable diligence" when incorporating the company, and had also "breached practically all of his obligations as a director subsequent to incorporation".

The judge agreed on the need for a stiff sentence, noting the amount of money involved in the case and the "global reach of the offences".