Ex-bank officer gets 18 weeks' jail for misappropriating $15K

SINGAPORE - A former senior officer of a bank who misappropriated $15,000 while covering the duties of another officer was sentenced to 18 weeks' jail on Wednesday.

Leo Sheng Liang, 34, was working in United Overseas Bank's MacPherson branch between Aug 17 and Sept 6, 2013, when he committed the offence. He has paid back the amount to UOB.

A district court heard that Leo's duties included processing cheques, attending to customer enquiries and other account-related matters.

At the time of the offences, he was also a covering a cash officer for the UOB MacPherson branch, which has since closed. He had to ensure that the cash balance was properly accounted for during the bank's opening and closing. Together with the branch's customer service officer, he would count and safekeep the cash in the branch.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Yau Pui Man said Leo was covering the duties of branch cash officer Leong Yin Foong, who was on medical leave at the time.

After counting the cash and packing it, it would be sealed with a label that is signed by the officer who counted the cash. The officers were not allowed to re-use these labels for security purposes.

Investigations showed that between Aug 17 and Sept 6, 2013, Leo had, on three occasions, siphoned a total of $15,000 from money that had been entrusted to him.

The first time, he found a stack of $50 notes totalling $5,000 inside the cash officer's drawer at the end of the branch's business day. He slotted the stack of notes inside his sleeve, in between his shirt and jacket. He then went to the toilet and put the cash into his trouser pocket before leaving the branch.

On the second and third occasions, he removed 100 pieces of $50 notes, totalling $5,000 each time, from cash that was previously counted and sealed. He then repacked and resealed the cash with a previous label signed by another officer to avoid detection.

The cash shortfalls were discovered some time later and Leo admitted to misappropriating the money when confronted by the bank.

His lawyer, Mr Ravinderpal Singh, said his client had a gambling addiction for which he was seeking treatment. He had an outstanding loan of $15,000 owed to GE Money due to his addiction. Further, he also owed four banks $15,000 each and accumulated $4,000 in UOB credit card bills.

He said that during his seven-year service with the bank, Leo had received various commendations for his good performance including an excellent service award in 2010 and 2011.

Leo could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined.