9 years' jail for ex-CFO who helped cheat banks of $426m

Ong Ah Huat will surrender himself at the State Courts on May 31 to begin his jail sentence.
Ong Ah Huat will surrender himself at the State Courts on May 31 to begin his jail sentence.

The former chief financial officer of a crude oil products supplier who worked with three others to dupe eight banks into disbursing about US$320 million (S$426 million) in loans was sentenced yesterday to nine years' jail.

Ong Ah Huat and his alleged accomplices caused China Merchant Bank (CMB) Singapore to suffer losses totalling about US$10 million. The seven other banks are in Hong Kong - including Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong) and OCBC Limited (Hong Kong).

Court documents did not disclose their losses.

Ong, a Singaporean, had earlier pleaded guilty to 15 charges, including three counts of engaging in a conspiracy to cheat and nine counts of committing forgery for the purpose of cheating. Forty-three other charges were considered during sentencing.

His alleged accomplices were his former colleagues at Coastal Oil, which has since entered into liquidation.

The case involving Huang Peishi, now 35, who used to be the firm's treasury manager, is still pending.

The other two - Mr Tan Sing Hwa and Ms Carol Zong - fled Singapore before the Commercial Affairs Department began investigations.

Deputy public prosecutors Thiagesh Sukumaran and Dhiraj Chainani had earlier told the court that Ong joined Coastal Oil as its chief financial officer in May 2016.

He later found that the firm was facing severe cash-flow issues and was not generating enough revenue to sustain its business.

Ong also learnt that Mr Tan, who was a co-director, had devised a scheme to obtain credit to address Coastal Oil's financial woes and the ruse involved creating forged documents.

Ong agreed to continue with the scheme, which involved items such as forged sale and purchase contracts as well as tax invoices.

The DPPs said Ong and the others engaged in a conspiracy to cheat CMB and the other banks between June 2017 and December 2018.

The offences came to light when the acting managing director of Sinfeng Marine, a trading partner of Coastal Oil, lodged a police report on Jan 7, 2019. The man told the authorities that Coastal Oil had submitted forged documents bearing Sinfeng's company and contract seals as well as signatures of Sinfeng's representatives.

Ong is now out on bail of $100,000 and he will surrender himself at the State Courts on May 31 to begin his jail sentence.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2021, with the headline '9 years' jail for ex-CFO who helped cheat banks of $426m'. Subscribe