SINGAPORE - Over almost two years, a banking operations specialist siphoned around $1.13 million from his company's safe to fuel his gambling addiction and repay debts.
He embezzled the sums by replacing genuine notes with counterfeit ones or blank sheets of paper, and withdrawing more cash than what customers sought.
Tan Chen Yen, 38, was on Monday (Dec 20) sentenced to seven years and five months' jail. He pleaded guilty to six charges, including criminal breach of trust by a servant, buying and using counterfeit notes and falsification of accounts.
Another 14 charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.
The court heard that Tan worked for Bank Pictet & Cie in Marina Bay Financial Centre for more than three years, from February 2015 to August 2018.
As a banking operations specialist, he was responsible for matters concerning the safe on the bank's premises which contained notes in various currencies.
He was entrusted with facilitating clients' cash deposits and withdrawals, ordering currency notes from UOB to replenish those in the safe when supply ran low and other administrative duties.
Between late 2016 and August 2018, Tan began pocketing the funds from the safe using two methods.
He would take the genuine notes and replace them with counterfeit ones he purchased online or with blank sheets of paper he cut up.
The second method involved withdrawing more cash than what his clients wanted, and taking the excess amount.
On Aug 31, 2018, a Pictet employee found an envelope full of blank sheets of paper cut into the shape of currency notes.
The discovery was reported to the chief operating officer, who ordered a physical count of the currency notes in the safe.
Upon learning that the envelope had been found, Tan confessed his misdeeds.
An internal investigation determined that he misappropriated around $1.13 million. Tan later made restitution of $62,258 to the bank.
He admitted that he spent the money on gambling - hoping he would win enough to repay the amount he took - and personal expenses.
Deputy Public Prosecutor David Menon sought a jail sentence of between seven years and six months and seven years and 10 months. He said the amount involved was substantial and the bank had been unable to recover most of the money misappropriated.
"The accused has only made minimal belated restitution, and while the contents of the safe were insured, the insurance only covered robbery, not misappropriation by an employee," added DPP Menon.
He noted, however, that Tan did not give counterfeit notes to customers or allow them to enter circulation. "This would have damaged public confidence in Singapore's banking system."
For criminal breach of trust as a servant, Tan could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined. For using counterfeit notes, he could have been jailed for up to 20 years and fined.