65-year-old man convicted over trying to deposit 3 fake $10,000 notes

A $10,000 note being examined under a UV scanner. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - He agreed to help a Vietnamese man claiming to be a high-ranking government official exchange Singapore $10,000 portrait-series notes for smaller denominations for a commission.

Despite suspecting that the notes were not genuine, Young Tat Ong, 65, sought to deposit three of these notes into his corporate bank account.

He pleaded guilty on Thursday to a charge of engaging in a conspiracy to use counterfeit currency as real money.

District Judge Paul Chan called for a report to assess whether Young is suitable for preventive detention, which involves being detained in prison for between seven and 20 years.

It is usually imposed on recalcitrant offenders for the protection of the public.

In Young's case, he had been convicted seven times since the age of 16 of various crimes, including similar cheating and forgery offences.

The court heard that Young got to know the Vietnamese, Dinh Dai Quang, through an online acquaintance.

Dinh told the accused that he was a government official in Vietnam who had access to Singapore $10,000 notes kept in a warehouse belonging to his government.

Dinh also said the notes were payments from the Singapore Government to Vietnam for investments in his country.

He then asked the accused to help exchange the notes for smaller denominations, promising him a commission of $4,000 for each $10,000 note. Young agreed.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Ong Xin Jie told the court that Young had doubts about the authenticity of the notes.

"This was because the colour presentation of the pictures of the notes that Dinh had sent to him via WhatsApp appeared dull and dissimilar from genuine $10,000 he had previously encountered," he said.

On March 21 this year, Young met Dinh at Changi Airport and the latter gave him two pieces of $10,000.

He noticed that the notes appeared dull but brought them home nonetheless.

The next day, the duo went to a DBS Bank outlet and tried to deposit $31,000, comprising three counterfeit $10,000 notes and a genuine $1,000 note.

When the bank teller took the notes, she sensed something was wrong as the texture of the larger-denomination notes felt different from genuine ones.

She got her superiors to inspect them.

The branch service manager found four discrepancies in the fake notes - the texture was different, security thread lines were blue instead of silver, watermark images of late President Yusof Ishak were not distinct and the serial numbers were in golden brown instead of brown and black.

The manager then called the police, who arrested the duo at the scene.

Investigations revealed that Young had strong suspicions that the notes were counterfeit. As such, he got Dinh to sign an agreement stating that the latter must assume legal liability as the rightful owner of the notes.

Young also knew that Dinh had concealed the notes when passing through Customs checks at Changi Airport when he entered Singapore.

Dinh's case is pending before the courts.

For engaging in a conspiracy to use counterfeit currency as genuine money, an offender can be jailed for up to 20 years and fined.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.