A Singaporean businesswoman, who helped two Nigerian men launder an unprecedented amount of $5 million, was sentenced on Tuesday to six years in jail. It is the longest jail term ever imposed for a money mule.
In 2012, Nordiah Bakar, 48, who was operating a trading business then, got to know Mr Alex Otumba in Johor Baru through a mutual friend. She was then told of the other Nigerian, identified only as Mr Joseph. Both men sought her help to receive money in her bank accounts and promised her commissions of up to $5,000 for each transaction.
Between July 19, 2012, and August 24, 2012, she received about $5 million in her bank accounts or in the accounts of her foster sister Zarina Othman, 48, or brother-in-law Zamali Jais, 60. The money had been surreptitiously transferred from a trust fund from the Gonet Bank and Trust based in the Bahamas. Nordiah would then withdraw the money and hand it to persons sent by the Nigerians.
She had pleaded guilty on Monday to committing offences that included receiving stolen property, transferring benefits of criminal conduct and removing criminal proceeds out of jurisdiction.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Muhamad Imaduddien had asked the court to impose a sentence of at least six years because of the large amount of money involved. He also said that Nordiah had recruited family members to help her commit some of the offences.
Pleading for a sentence of not more than three years, defence counsel Ismail Hamid pointed out that while the overall amount of money involved was huge, his client only benefited by $24,000. "She had been exploited by the Nigerians," he added.
Agreeing with the prosecution that a deterrent sentence was appropriate, District Judge Liew Thiam Leng pointed out to the substantial number of transactions carried out by Nordiah.