Singaporean duo fined for breaking UN rules

SINGAPORE - Two Singaporean men were fined $70,000 and $14,000 each on Thursday after they pleaded guilty to flouting United Nations (UN) rules.

Soh Boon Hock, 61, and Wan Teck Guan, 59, paid off credit card and golf membership bills incurred by Indonesian businessman Joseph Wong Kiia Tai, who is on a UN list of prohibited persons, between 2004 and 2013.

Wong, an executive of Oriental Timber Company (OTC), was among those blacklisted by the UN Security Council in 2004 for providing military and financial support to former Liberia president Charles Taylor.

The UN Security Council Resolution 1532 states that it is illegal to financially support Charles Taylor or his associates.

Taylor, who led Liberia for six years till 2003, was convicted in 2012 of crimes against humanity by a special court in The Hague and jailed for 50 years.

He was found criminally responsible for helping and abetting rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone, who carried out atrocities such as rape and murder between 1996 and 2002.

OTC undertook logging operations in Liberia during his term and Taylor is alleged to have used revenue from the timber trade to fund his abuses.

Soh and Wan were charged in November last year under the United Nations (Freezing of Assets of Former President of Liberia and Connected Persons) Regulations 2004, through the Monetary Authority of Singapore. The case is the first invocation of the law here.

Soh faced 108 charges involving about $825,000, over a period from January 2005 to February 2013.

Wan faced 22 charges for making cheque payments worth around $58,000 to Wong's credit card between October 2004 and June 2007.

Soh was convicted on 35 charges and Wan was convicted on seven charges.

In their mitigation, the lawyer for both men, Ms Charmaine Neo, pointed out that Soh and Wan had known Wong for about 20 years.

The company that the two men worked for, Link Gold International, was funded by Wong's father from Indonesia. Soh and Wan both reported to Wong and his father.

The payments that the men made for Wong's principal and supplementary cards with DBS Bank and OCBC Bank were also done on Wong's instruction. The payments came mainly from Link Gold's account.

Despite being aware of a UN travel ban on Wong, Soh and Wan did not know that he was also on the UN asset freeze list.

The commercial affairs department commenced investigations on the men in March 2013.

They could have been fined up to $100,000 or jailed up to five years, or both.