Bank officer admits to taking more than $200k from elderly customers' accounts

SINGAPORE - A bank relationship manager won the trust of two elderly customers, then made off with more than $200,000 of their money.

Liaw Tick Kwan made unauthorised transfers and lied about investments before using their money for his own ends, such as to buy real estate in Cambodia under his wife's name.

The 37-year-old pleaded guilty to two counts of cheating on Thursday (May 2). He also admitted to one count each of an offence under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act and one of dealing with the benefits of his criminal activities.

Liaw was working for DBS Bank between November 2011 and May 2014 when he got to know his two victims - both Singaporean retirees who relied on their accounts as their sources of income.

In August 2013, he helped Mr Chin Tian Loke to open a DBS account to invest in foreign currencies, and applied for Internet banking facilities on the 73-year-old's behalf.

Mr Chin entrusted his online banking security token and personal identification number with Liaw so that the younger man could manage his investment-related transactions.

The following month, Liaw used the token to access the retiree's account - without his authorisation - and transferred US$83,000 (S$105,000) to Mean Chey International Investment in Cambodia.

In May and October 2014, he transferred more than US$19,000 from Mr Chin's account to that of his other victim, 67-year-old Ms Chou Ching Ping.

Liaw went on to work for Standard Chartered Bank Singapore (SCB) from June 2014 to May 2015.

He continued to act as Mr Chin's relationship manager and asked him to transfer all his money to SCB, which he did.

On Oct 29, 2014, Liaw duped Ms Chou into believing that she had received more than $67,000 in her DBS account that was "related to one of his client's investments", the court heard.

Believing Liaw, Ms Chou withdrew the amount and gave it to him.

On March 9, 2015, Liaw duped Mr Chin into signing a cheque for more than $24,000 after lying to the retiree, claiming that he had to pay some fees. Liaw then encashed the cheque and used the money for his personal expenses.

In May that year, Mr Chin became suspicious after receiving no updates from SCB, and found out he had been cheated after checking with the bank. He lodged a police report.

Deputy Public Prosecution Norman Yew said Liaw has made partial restitution. Between July and September 2015, he paid more than $24,000 to SCB, and in April last year, he handed US$10,300 to Mr Chin.

Liaw is expected to be sentenced on June 4. For each count of cheating, he could be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

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