Man gets 10 years in jail for role in $6 million car import scam

Koh (above) and two alleged accomplices still at large set up Volks Auto (left) in MacPherson Road, collected the deposits but did not deliver a single car.
Koh and two alleged accomplices still at large set up Volks Auto (above) in MacPherson Road, collected the deposits but did not deliver a single car.ST FILE PHOTO

Three Singaporeans cheated 182 people of more than $6 million in what is possibly the largest cheating case in the local car industry's history.

They had set up a company in 2014 that purportedly imported cars, collected the money from buyers, but did not deliver a single car.

Instead, they took the money and fled the country.

Yesterday, one of the trio, Koh Chek Seng, 35, was jailed for 10 years after he pleaded guilty to 17 counts of cheating and one count each of converting and transferring the benefits of criminal conduct. He also admitted to one count of removing the benefits of criminal conduct from jurisdiction.

The court heard that 180 other charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

Koh (above) and two alleged accomplices still at large set up Volks Auto (left) in MacPherson Road, collected the deposits but did not deliver a single car.

Koh (above) and two alleged accomplices still at large set up Volks Auto in MacPherson Road, collected the deposits but did not deliver a single car.

According to court documents, the trio cheated their victims of $6,163,772 between May and December 2014.

In March that year, Koh and his alleged accomplices - Alvin Loo Mun Yu and Jason Koh Chi Kang, both 36 - discussed how to earn cash by setting up a company dealing with parallel imported cars.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Ng Jean Ting said Jason Koh then suggested that if the company "failed", the trio would close it and flee with customers' deposits.

A company known as Volks Auto was formed on April 1 that year, with Loo as the sole director and shareholder. It had two bank accounts, and he was the sole authorised signatory for both of them.

The following month, the company began operations at a showroom in MacPherson Road.

Koh Chek Seng then arranged for cars, including a Mercedes E-Class and a Porsche Boxster, to be placed there. Several sales staff were also recruited.

DPP Ng said: "Through the trio and the recruited salespersons, it was represented to the customers that the company would procure the cars ordered through direct imports into Singapore.

"Although customers placed orders for cars and made their deposit payments to the company, no effort was made to fulfil these orders."

Most of the cash collected from the victims was then deposited into the company's bank accounts.

However, the firm did not apply for car importation with Singapore Customs. It also did not bid for any certificates of entitlement.

None of the victims received the cars they ordered.

The court heard that Loo rewarded his accomplices for their roles, and Koh Chek Seng received at least $450,000. Loo left Singapore on Dec 5, 2014, while the two others fled a week later.

DPP Ng said the first police report was made only on Dec 13.

By Dec 16 that year, one of the company's bank accounts was cleaned out, while another was left with only $4,138.98 in it.

Koh Chek Seng returned to Singapore on Dec 23, 2015, and was arrested at Changi Airport.

His alleged accomplices remain at large and to date, no restitution has been made.

Yesterday, DPP Ng asked Principal District Judge Ong Hian Sun to jail the accused for between 10 and 12 years. She said: "Given the staggering quantum of loss involved and the fact that this loss can be attributed virtually exclusively to the greed of the trio, a stiff deterrent sentence is necessary to reflect the magnitude of the accused's wrongdoing."

Koh Chek Seng's lawyer Cheryl Ng, who represented him pro bono, asked for a sentence of less than 10 years. She said he played a minor role, and named the two others as the "main actors". She added: "Koh returned to Singapore to face the music despite knowing that he was wanted by the police."

For each cheating charge, he could have been jailed up to 10 years and fined.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2017, with the headline 'Man gets 10 years in jail for role in $6 million car import scam'. Print Edition | Subscribe