Accountant who cheated two companies out of $1.6 million jailed 7 years, 3 months

Ong Chwee Tee pleaded guilty to 24 of 107 charges of criminal breach of trust, forgery and cheating. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - An accountant who committed fraud in two companies, causing them to lose $1.6 million was sentenced to seven years and three months behind bars on Thursday (March 31).

Ong Chwee Tee, 58, pleaded guilty to 24 of 107 charges of criminal breach of trust, forgery and cheating.

While working at Witte Far East, which is in the automotive industry, between December 2002 and November 2010, he misappropriated $1.2 million from 2006.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Joel Chen told the court that Ong was given pre-signed cheques and telegraphic transfer (TT) forms to make payments by Witte's former managing director, Mr Stefan Roding, as he often travelled for work purposes.

Ong, who was not asked to return the unused pre-signed cheques and TT forms, issued cheques to himself, and also made transfers to his personal bank account several times.

The amounts involved in the two proceeded charges of criminal breach of trust were $357,721 and $244,088.

In 2010, the company headquarters in Germany sent a member of staff to check on the Singapore office as it had detected abnormally high payments made to Witte's auditors. It had also received complaints on Witte not making payments on time.

When Ong learnt of the impending visit, he cooked up vouchers and invoices stating that payments were duly made to suppliers, subcontractors and agents when they were actually paid to himself.

He had also used real invoices more than once to justify multiple payments.

He created fictitious invoices in the name of one PKF Advisory to conceal his misappropriation of Witte's money.

After his employment was terminated in early November 2010, he joined Chris-Marine as an accountant.

After Chris-Marine made him a signatory to its bank account in 2011, Ong devised a scheme to misappropriate company funds by deceiving either the director or managing director into signing cheques for his own use.

He did so by submitting cheques for one director's signature with supporting documents that had earlier been used for other cheque payments approved by the other director.

He would encash such cheques and use the money for his own expenses.

From January 2013 to May 2014, he deceived the company's directors into signing cheques totalling $419,324.

The 15 proceeded cheating charges was $199,831.

To cover up his misappropriation, Ong had forged Chris-Marine's bank statements. That was why auditors could not find anything amiss.

It was only in May 2014 after Chris-Marine discovered that Ong had been remanded in prison that it engaged another accountant to look into its accounts.

Ong has a previous conviction for criminal breach of trust. None of the money has been paid back.

District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt agreed with the prosecution that there were aggravating factors. He said that Ong had crossed into the dominion of greed.

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