SINGAPORE - The mastermind behind Singapore's largest ever counterfeit casino chip scam was jailed for seven years and four months on Wednesday (June 7).
The case involved 1,291 counterfeit chips, each with a face value of $1,000, and they were exchanged for cash at the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) casino between the evening of Nov 22 and the early morning hours of Nov 23, 2015.
As a result, MBS suffered a loss of $1,291,000.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Asoka Markandu said the mastermind - Toh Hock Thiam, now 55 - was only directly responsible for 420 counterfeit chips.
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However, he can still be indirectly held accountable for the total losses sustained by MBS.
DPP Asoka added: "As the counterfeit cash chips are all the same, an inference can be drawn that Toh was either involved in the manufacture and distribution of all the counterfeit cash chips or he had liaised with an unknown syndicate member who had manufactured and delivered the counterfeit cash chips to him and others involved in the scam."
Court documents did not reveal where these chips were made.
After a 14-day trial, District Judge Luke Tan convicted Toh last month of 13 counts of engaging in a conspiracy to exchange counterfeit casino chips for cash at MBS.
The court heard 161 similar charges involving the chips and one count of an immigration offence were taken into consideration during sentencing.
The counterfeit cash chips were of such high quality that they escaped detection for a whole week, until an alert cashier noticed a slight discolouration in one of them.
Upon further investigation, the casino confirmed that the chip did not have all the security features found in a genuine one.
These features were not visible to the naked eye and could only be detected with special equipment kept inside the cashier's cage at MBS.
According to the Casino Regulatory Authority, the counterfeit chips were the "best quality" that they had examined so far.
Toh was directly responsible for recruiting two accomplices Seow Piak Long, 65, and Chia Wei Tien, 48.
Seow helped Toh to distribute the chips and collect the money, while Chia contributed by recruiting 16 runners.
The runners and Seow were promised cash rewards for their effort.
Chia, on the other hand, was promised a percentage of the total amount that was exchanged for cash by the runners he had recruited.
Shortly after all the runners carried out their unlawful tasks, Toh deposited cash totalling $335,400 into his bank account on Nov 23, 2015.
When he realised that police were looking for him eight days later, he withdrew all the money from the account and fled to Malaysia. None of the money has been recovered.
Toh was nabbed in Malaysia on Dec 31, 2015 with the help of the Malaysian police and the Macau Judiciary Police. He was handed to Singapore police the next day.
DPP Asoka said of the 16 runners, 13 have been dealt with in court. They were sentenced to between five and 14 months' jail.
Three runners managed to escape detection and warrants of arrest have been issued against them.
For taking part in the scam, Chia was jailed for five years while Seow was jailed for a year.
Toh could have been jailed up to seven years and fined up to $150,000 for each count of engaging in the conspiracy to exchange counterfeit casino chips for cash.