Deliveryman who was director of company in $39.9m SkillsFuture scam jailed

SINGAPORE - A deliveryman who was appointed the director of one of nine companies involved in a $39.9 million SkillsFuture scam was sentenced to four years and four months' jail on Wednesday (Nov 20) for his role in the criminal syndicate.

Tan Wee Kee, 57, had allowed an acquaintance to use his NRIC and SingPass credentials to set up the company in return for some money to pay off a $20,000 debt.

He also allowed the acquaintance, Sim Soon Lee, to use his bank account to receive a total of about $20.5 million from fraudulent SkillsFuture course fee subsidy claims.

Tan had earlier pleaded guilty to four charges relating to his involvement in the scheme, including for money laundering and for breaching a director's duty under the Companies Act.

Six other charges of a similar nature were taken into consideration for sentencing.

Tan was part of a criminal syndicate that had set up nine shell companies - three training providers and six business entities - which submitted more than 8,000 course fee subsidy claims to SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) between May and October 2017.

The claims resulted in the disbursement of about $39.9 million by SSG to the companies, on the basis that the three training providers had provided courses to about 25,000 employees of the six business entities.

The fraudulent applications and claims were made via SSG's online portal, SkillsConnect, using the SingPass credentials of various people, including Tan.

Some time in 2017, Sim approached Tan at a coffee shop in Bukit Batok, offering to help the latter repay his debt to unlicensed moneylenders on the condition that Tan provide his NRIC details to him. After Tan did so and allowed Sim to take a photo of his NRIC, he was given $300.

Several days later, Sim brought some documents to the same coffee shop for Tan to sign, explaining it was so that Tan could be registered as a director of a company named SK Business.

"In return for financial gains, (Tan) did so accordingly without reading the forms, finding out why he had to be registered as the director, and which company was it for," said Deputy Public Prosecutors Ivan Chua and Tan Hsiao Tien.

Tan also provided Sim with his SingPass credentials and ATM card without finding out the reasons for his request, and was given $5,000 in cash.

From June 29 that year, Tan also became the authorised representative of SK Business on SkillsConnect portal, and his SingPass credentials were used to endorse training grant applications and submitting claims, resulting in $20.5 million being disbursed to the company by SSG.

A few days later, Tan became the bank signatory of SK Business, and was instructed by Sim to sign blank cheques belonging to the company. Sim then gave Tan $5,000 cash.

On Aug 8 that year, Sim told Tan to withdraw two sums of money - $90,000 and $89,000 - from his bank account and to hand over the cash to him. Tan did so, and received $2,000 from Sim.

Several days later on Aug 12, Tan was told to encash a cheque of $90,000, which he did, and passed the full sum to Sim.

Then, on Aug 24, Tan was removed as director of SK Business after he told Sim that he wanted to resign from the company. His reasons were not given in court but he did not change or cancel his SingPass or ATM card, and remained as the signatory of the company's bank account until Sept 20 that year.

Tan left Singapore the following month, allegedly to work in China, and was told by Sim later not to return to Singapore as he would be arrested.

Tan decided to remain overseas in various countries, but was eventually arrested by the Royal Malaysian Police on Aug 8 last year and handed over to the Commercial Affairs Department.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.