Woman used cut-&-paste trick to steal $1.5m

8 years' jail for ex-accounts assistant who arranged for fund transfers from employer

A cut-and-paste job was all it took for Kuah Bee Eng to siphon $1.5 million from her employer's bank accounts.

The former accounts assistant, who forged 25 funds transfer forms and transferred the sum to a joint account held by her and her husband, was sentenced to eight years' jail yesterday.

Kuah, 44, was working for Kanetsu Singapore when she committed forgery between Dec 13, 2006 and Oct 3, 2011. Her duties included receiving and making payments on behalf of Kanetsu, and keeping its accounting records. She was also in charge of drawing up funds transfer forms for the approval of Kanetsu's two authorised signatories.

To siphon the money from Kanetsu's Citibank accounts, she needed their signatures, and to get that, she used falsified funds transfer forms, using customers of the company as payees.

After securing the signatures of Kanetsu's authorised signatories, she would cut them out and paste them on fresh funds transfer forms which showed her husband's name as the beneficiary.

She specified the POSB joint account she shares with her husband as the beneficiary's bank account. These forms were then faxed to Citibank for the fund transfers to be processed, after which she transferred the funds from the joint account to her own account. With that, she defrauded Kanetsu of US$935,000 plus $284,051, totalling $1.53 million.

She pleaded guilty to nine forgery charges involving US$700,000. The remaining 16 charges were taken into consideration.

Kuah admitted on Oct 11, 2011 to committing the offences after external auditors uncovered unauthorised transactions in August that year. She claimed to have spent the money on her gambling addiction. She made restitution of $10,283 to Kanetsu, which took civil proceedings to recover the rest of the money from her.

Judgment was entered in default of appearance on Feb 23, 2012. Kuah successfully applied for bankruptcy in August that year.

Since August 2012, monthly instalments of $710 have been made into her bankruptcy estate, making up a total of $35,500. Dividend payments from her bankruptcy estate will be distributed to Kanetsu only after she is discharged from bankruptcy.

Seeking a total jail sentence of eight to 81/2 years to be imposed, Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Jun Hong said Kuah had exploited loopholes in Citibank's processes; there were multiple instances of offending that took place over nearly five years; and the offences were premeditated.

He also said Kuah had abused the trust that her employer had placed in her.

Last month, Lim Hoon Choo, 62, was given 12 years' jail for embezzling $1.3 million from her company over almost four years by forging more than 200 cheques to feed her gambling habit.

The maximum punishment for forgery is 15 years' jail and a fine.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2016, with the headline 'Woman used cut-&-paste trick to steal $1.5m'. Print Edition | Subscribe