Currency counterfeiting mastermind, 71, jailed after 24 years on the run

SINGAPORE - Twenty-four years ago, he fled the country after his counterfeit currency syndicate was busted.

Now 71, Lim Goon Lor has finally come home - after police caught him last year in Malaysia. Following a seven-day trial, he was sentenced on Thursday to 11 years in prison for printing and trafficking fake money.

Lim had first been arrested in January 1991 with three other men for running a counterfeit currency printing enterprise out of a rented room in a Greenwood Avenue shophouse off Dunearn Road.

His accomplices, Wang Wen Nan, Looi Tong Koon and Yuen Tian Yang, were each jailed 12 months in 1993 for helping to traffic the fake currency. But Lim, the mastermind, jumped his bail of $150,000 and escaped to Malaysia.

Despite a $100,000 reward for his arrest, he remained on the run until last year, when he was arrested following a tip-off to police.

He was convicted in Petaling Jaya for immigration offences and deported to Singapore afterwards, where he faced 22 charges related to counterfeiting currency ranging from US dollars to Malaysian ringgit to Indian rupees.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Jurena Chan asked for a sentence of 10 to 12 years' jail, citing Lim's earlier escape attempt and the huge amount of false money produced. She said the four charges that proceeded to trial alone involved sums of nearly $200,000.

Lim, who was unrepresented, maintained his innocence to the end. He even broke down and wept in the dock during his lengthy mitigation plea, which lasted for well over 10 minutes.

Speaking in Mandarin, he stressed his advanced age and health problems, and also highlighted the many charitable contributions he had made in Malaysia to orphanages, old folks' homes, and dialysis centres. The prosecution said they had been unable to find documentation of these contributions.

Lim said: "I thought I met a judge with wisdom in Court 24 and that he would believe me, but I have been let down."

District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan responded: "Although it is unfortunate you find me lacking in wisdom, I hope you do not find me wanting in patience."

He added that it was clear Lim had played the leading role in the enterprise, and was not sorry for what he had done. "From the way you conducted your defence until the end when you were supposedly mitigating, it is clear you showed no remorse."

For each charge of counterfeiting currency, Lim could have been jailed for up to 20 years and also liable to a fine.

oliviaho@sph.com.sg