Jailed for siphoning sponsored funds

14 months' jail for travel agency sales manager who was initially acquitted of CBT over $176k

A sales manager of a travel agency was yesterday jailed 14 months for her role in an elaborate scam to siphon $176,000 meant to sponsor prizes for events run by NTUC Club.

Audrey Ang Geok Kim, 52, had initially been cleared of 11 charges of criminal breach of trust (CBT) following a trial in a district court, which found that she did not have any dishonest intent to cause wrongful gain or loss.

Prosecutors appealed, arguing that the trial judge had ignored several red flags which showed that she had acted dishonestly.

The High Court reversed the acquittal last week and sentenced her yesterday. Ang was also ordered to pay compensation of $6,515, the amount she personally had gained from the scam.

She is the last person to be dealt with in relation to the elaborate web of deceit involving NTUC Club, the leisure and entertainment arm of the National Trades Union Congress, and its liquor and tobacco suppliers.

The mastermind of the scam, Jackie Chia Kian Gee, then the deputy divisional manager of NTUC Club, was jailed 25 months, while another accomplice who played the role of a runner was jailed five months. Both have served their sentences.

A third accomplice died before the offences came to light.

Ang is a corporate sales manager at Cultural & Entertainment Holidays (C&E) and counts NTUC Club, which runs several clubhouses and pubs, as a longtime client.

Chia was responsible for organising events at the clubs, and would approach tobacco and liquor suppliers to sponsor prizes such as travel vouchers at such events.

For the travel vouchers, the sponsors would pay funds to C&E, which would then issue vouchers to be given away as prizes at the events. The winners would then present the vouchers at C&E to redeem travel packages.

In 2007, Chia hatched a scam to siphon the sponsored funds for his own use and asked Ang to help divert the funds to him and his accomplices. She agreed, pocketing 5 per cent of the siphoned money as a "service charge".

Between July 2007 and October 2009, Ang used two methods to divert $175,694 to her accomplices.

First, when walk-in customers paid for travel packages, she set aside the cash for her accomplices and recorded these transactions as voucher redemptions.

Second, she used the sponsored funds to pay for Chia's personal travel expenses, including family holidays.

Ang, who denied acting dishonestly and insisted that her actions resulted in C&E making a profit, rather than a loss, was acquitted last June of misappropriating the money.

But Justice Tay Yong Kwang, in overturning her acquittal, agreed with Deputy Public Prosecutor Jiang Ke-Yue's arguments that Ang was dishonest and clearly intended her accomplices and herself to benefit from it.

"The way she carried it out by camouflaging the encashment with cash paid by walk-in customers, coupled with the inaccurate documentation, clearly showed her guilty mind," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2016, with the headline 'Jailed for siphoning sponsored funds'. Print Edition | Subscribe