Part of missing $10m for remittance was 'life-saving money'

Ms Li Xia runs the shop at Crawford Court and had been offering remittance services for around three years.
Ms Li Xia runs the shop at Crawford Court and had been offering remittance services for around three years.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

As her friends were already using remittance services offered by the owner of a costume boutique and salon, a dancer decided to send her savings of $140,000 back to China through her as well.

The 24-year-old, who wanted to be known only as Ms Liu, passed $50,000 to the shop owner, Ms Li Xia, last month and another $90,000 earlier this month.

The money, saved up over two years, was meant for her family to renovate their house in Shaanxi. Ms Li told her that the money would arrive within 30 days.

 

"A lot of friends were very familiar with her. They said she's very reliable," Ms Liu said yesterday.

But Ms Li allegedly disappeared last week with more than $10 million of remittance money from some 200 people, including Ms Liu. Police reports have been filed against her. "A lot of people's money was 'life-saving money' meant for family members who are ill or in hospital," said Ms Liu, in Mandarin.

Her own family members were very worried upon finding out about the incident, and she claimed one had a heart attack.

She is returning to Shaanxi next month before the Chinese New Year. "I don't know if I'll be able to come back (to Singapore)," she said.

Ms Li, who is reportedly a Singapore permanent resident originally from Chongqing, China, had been offering remittance services for around three years.

Her shop assistants or driver always collected the money on her behalf, Ms Liu said.

When several victims went to Ms Li's boutique in Crawford Court near North Bridge Road last week to look for her, the shop assistants told them that they too had lost money to Ms Li.

The boutique's landlord told evening daily Shin Min Daily News that she wants her shop space back and is talking to a lawyer about the matter. She said she has been to the shop occasionally since letting it to Ms Li two years ago but did not notice anything amiss, and was shocked when she saw her tenant in the news.

When The Straits Times visited the shop, the lights were off and the door was locked. Glamorous dresses still filled the racks.

Calls to Ms Li's and her husband's mobile phones went straight to voice mail, and no one answered the door at their flat in Hougang. Her husband is said to be a Singaporean.

Neighbours said the couple kept to themselves and were last seen three weeks ago.

Said one neighbour who wanted to be known only as Mr Tan: "They used to be quite loving, always going out together, but lately not so."

He said the couple moved in around three years ago. "Now I hardly see them. I don't know their names and they don't really greet people, even in the lift."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2015, with the headline 'Part of missing $10m for remittance was 'life-saving money''. Print Edition | Subscribe