A Singapore-based company director has admitted in court his connection with a 2008 case in which Citibank in New York was duped into transferring US$27.2 million (S$37.2 million) from the corporate account of the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) to various beneficiaries worldwide.
Yesterday, a Singapore district court heard that between Oct 2 and 16 that year, Citibank received 24 payment instructions purportedly sent by NBE. The lender later transferred the money to various accounts in countries such as Australia, Japan and China.
One of the accounts was provided by the Nigerian director of a Singapore-based wholesale company.
Paul Gabriel Amos had received a call from a friend asking him for an account to transfer ill-gotten gains into. According to court documents, that friend Robert Umohette told Amos about his involvement in various projects with the Ethiopian government and how he had helped cheat it of money.
Amos agreed to take part in the plan on condition that he would receive a cut of the criminal proceeds.
The 47-year-old Singapore permanent resident was later caught and sentenced yesterday to three years' jail after pleading guilty to two counts of dishonestly receiving stolen property totalling more than $1 million. He also admitted to one count of money laundering.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Shamini Joseph told District Judge Victor Yeo that even though Amos agreed to take part in his friend's plan, he did not want to "get into trouble" with the Singapore authorities by using his company's account.
He later spoke to a man identified only as Mohammad Sohail and they decided to use the bank account of an Australia-based firm, Mac-Warners, to receive the cash. Court documents did not state how the company was linked to the pair.
On Oct 2, 2008, Citibank unwittingly transferred over US$1.8 million from NBE's corporate account to one belonging to Mac-Warners.
The court heard that Amos was then instructed by Umohette to transfer a portion of the cash to a bank account belonging to a Singapore-based firm named Ideal Con.
Acting on Amos' instructions later that month, Mohammad Sohail transferred about US$670,000 from Mac-Warners' bank account to Ideal Con's.
The court heard that Amos also received more than $420,000 for his commission.
Separately, Amos was fined $4,200 and disqualified from driving all classes of vehicles for a year for offences including driving his blue Lamborghini in a dangerous manner. He was driving along the East Coast Parkway on Oct 2, 2016 when he sped through a narrow gap between two vehicles.