Robbery victim convicted of operating unlicensed remittance business

Kamarulzaman Abuasanar, 31, an Indian national, pleaded guilty to committing the offence in Dunlop Street.
Kamarulzaman Abuasanar, 31, an Indian national, pleaded guilty to committing the offence in Dunlop Street.PHOTO: ST GRAPHICS

SINGAPORE - A man who was among three victims of a $1.2-million gang robbery in Little India three years ago was convicted of carrying on a remittance business without a valid licence from the Monetary Authority of Singapore

Kamarulzaman Abuasanar, 31, an Indian national, pleaded guilty to committing the offence in Dunlop Street between March 2010 and July this year.

Another Indian national, Anthony Savarimuthu, 39, is expected to plead guilty next month while a third, Jalaludeen Gulam Hussain, 35, is claiming trial.

The court heard that Abuasanar had been collecting money from Indian nationals working in Singapore to remit to various payees in India.

He and Savarimuthu operated two separate remittance businesses known as Hawala to the Indian nationals.

The Hawala system is an informal channel for transferring funds from one country to another through service providers known as Hawala agents.

The agreement to transfer money across borders is based primarily on phone communications between these Hawala agents. The business is also based on trust.

As Hawala agents, Abuasanar and Savarimuthu would collect remittance funds in Singapore dollars from Indian nationals who came from the same town or village in India and subsequently transmit the money to India by arranging for their representatives there to disburse the equivalent amount in rupees to intended recipients, based on pre-agreed exchange rates.

They would then convert the Singapore dollars they had collected into goods by buying gold and/or electronic items in Singapore. These items would then be sent to India through Indian couriers who travel frequently between India and Singapore.

The items would be sold for profit in India and the money used to replenish the stock of rupees for the Hawala agents based in India to disburse.

The Commercial Affairs Department raided the duo's lodging at Dunlop Street on July 30 this year and seized mobile phones, laptop computers and remittance documents used to operate the illegal remittance business.

Abuasanar will be sentenced on Jan 21. The maximum punishment is a $100,000 fine and two years' jail.

The gang of five robbers have been convicted and are serving between eight and 10-1/2 years' jail each plus caning.