SINGAPORE - Two Malaysian men were on Wednesday (Oct 19) given jail terms for their involvement in a parcel scam, which has seen 348 victims lose more than $19 million as of end-August.
Suhaimi Jaffar, 36, was jailed for 20 months, while Mohammad Afiq Ishak, 24, was jailed for 18 months.
They had opened bank accounts in Singapore for the sole purpose of receiving money from victims of a syndicate, which is responsible for running a scam commonly referred to as the "DHL parcel scam".
Both men pleaded guilty to one charge each under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act.
Suhaimi and Afiq are the first two men involved in the scam to be sentenced. The cases for 10 other people are at the pre-trial stage.
A district court heard that the syndicate responsible for running the scam was transnational, with a network of operators and runners in Malaysia.
"Typically, the victims would be told that the People's Republic of China police had intercepted a parcel that they had sent and that it contained illegal items," said Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Leong Wing Tuck.
"The victims would then be threatened with reprisals unless they were prepared to resolve the issue by handing over their bank account details and passwords, on the pretext that it was required to verify their identity.
"Little did these victims realise that these fraudsters would gain access to their bank accounts and make unauthorised electronic transfers to another bank account, while simultaneously arranging to have these fraudulent gains withdrawn as soon as the electronic transfer was completed," added DPP Leong.
The syndicate's operators also impersonated police officers.
- In an incident which happened at about 10am on July 25, a 37-year-old female Chinese national living in Singapore got a call from an unknown caller who claimed to be a policeman in China. He said a parcel she had sent to China had illegal goods and demanded that she reveal her Internet banking details.
- However, the woman later realised that $32,600 had been transferred from her DBS account into Suhaimi's UOB account, which was opened on July 22. She made a police report at about 7.10pm that day.
- A day earlier, at about 3pm on July 24, a 35-year-old female Myanmar national and Singapore permanent resident also got a call from an unknown woman, who claimed that her bank accounts had been used for money laundering in relation to drug trafficking.
- The caller transferred the call to one "Inspector Feng" from "Beijing Interpol" and the bogus cop directed the victim to transfer all her money from her DBS account to her OCBC account.
- The next day, he asked for her internet banking details and a copy of her NRIC with her photo. Shortly after, transfers of $13,700 and $11,700 were made from the victim's OCBC account to Suhaimi's UOB account. She made a police report on July 27.
Suhaimi was arrested at the UOB branch at Woodlands Civic Centre on July 25, after police were notified by staff of his suspicious behaviour. He was trying to withdraw money from his account.
The syndicate's operators also impersonated Singapore policemen, the court heard.
- On July 27, a 32-year-old female Chinese national residing in Singapore got a local phone call from an unknown person who claimed to be an officer from the Singapore Police Force. The caller claimed the woman was being investigated for global money laundering activities and said he would be transferring the call to a police officer from China.
- An unknown person then claimed to be from the "China Police Force" and asked the victim to enter her personal particulars and internet banking details into a website, which purported to be that of "Beijing Interpol".
- Shortly after, $19,900 was transferred from her DBS account into Afiq's UOB account, which had been opened on July 22. She made a police report at about 9.20pm that day.
- A day earlier, at about 4.15pm on July 26, a 53-year-old male Chinese national residing in Singapore got a call from an unknown person claiming to be a policeman from the Singapore Police Force.
- The caller transferred the line to another person who claimed to be from the China Police Force, and the bogus cop said someone had been arrested in China for dealing in "black money" and the victim's particulars had been found on him.
- The caller threatened to report the matter to Singapore police and demanded that the victim withdraw all his money from his UOB account and put it into a new bank account. The victim opened a POSB savings account with internet banking facilities the same day.
- The next day, on July 27, he got a call from the same bogus cop who asked for his internet banking details for the purported purposes of investigation. Shortly after, $26,000 was transferred from the victim's bank account into Afiq's bank account.
Afiq was arrested at the UOB branch at Thomson on July 27, after police were notified by staff of his suspicious behaviour. He was trying to withdraw money from his account and admitted to bank staff that he was withdrawing cash on someone else's instructions.
In these four cases, the money was recovered and will be returned to the victims.
In seeking for deterrent sentences for both Suhaimi and Afiq, DPP Leong said: " Both cases involved transnatioanl syndicate with a network of operators and runners in Malaysia. The network is sophisticated with multiple operatives."
"Both accused were promised financial rewards for their involvement in the syndicate. Afiq was promised the sum of 4,000 ringgit, while Suhaimi was promised the availability of an indeterminate loan to clear his debts.
"The substantial financial rewards were their motivations to be part of the elaborate operations to obtain the illegal funds freshly deposited into their newly opened bank accounts and the subsequent quick removal," added DPP Leong.
Suhaimi and Afiq could have each been fined up to $500,000 and/or jailed for up to 10 years for their crimes.