Ex-banker jailed for cheating clients of $14m

Kale Jagdish Purushottam, 43, tried to cover up the loss of his clients' monies.
Kale Jagdish Purushottam, 43, tried to cover up the loss of his clients' monies.

In an attempt to pay back his former clients, a private banker forged signatures and documents to siphon US$10 million (S$13.6 million) from his clients' Barclays bank accounts.

He then made more unauthorised trades and transactions to recover and replace the sum, but ended up with extra losses of at least US$10 million.

Kale Jagdish Purushottam, 43, was sentenced to 13 years' jail yesterday, after he pleaded guilty to 20 forgery and cheating-related charges, and another 30 charges under the Computer Misuse Act.

Another 503 similar charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

The offences were committed between June 2010 and January 2013, when Kale was a private banker with Barclays Bank.

Prior to joining the British bank in February 2010, Kale worked for UBS Singapore where he was the relationship manager for a company called Red Oak, which alleged that Kale had engaged in unauthorised foreign exchange transactions using the money in its account.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Ng Jean Ting said Kale agreed to pay Red Oak $14 million to avoid a legal case. However, he paid the firm with money from his Barclays clients' bank accounts instead.

He forged payment instructions and signatures to illegally transfer about US$10 million to Red Oak from bank accounts maintained by three clients.

DPP Ng told the court that Kale passed off the forged documents by copying and pasting the genuine signatures of authorised signatories into his own Word documents.

To cover up the shortfall in the bank accounts of his three clients, he forged more documents to move monies between his other clients' accounts.

 

He also forged documents to create accounts in his clients' names that would allow him to take up loans. These loaned sums were then transferred to Red Oak, or used to cover up the other unauthorised fund transfers, said DPP Ng.

To cover up the loss of his clients' monies, Kale tried to make money through unauthorised stock and foreign exchange transactions using his clients' accounts, she added.

"However, the unauthorised trades and other transactions caused further net losses of at least US$10 million to Barclays," said DPP Ng.

On Feb 1, 2013, the Commercial Affairs Department received information that Kale might have forged his clients' signatures. He was sacked that same month.

In mitigation, defence counsel Anand Nalachandran told the court that Kale had not made the transfers or trades for personal financial benefit, but to satisfy what he thought was an obligation.

"Having just moved to Barclays, he was faced with allegations (from Red Oak), and instead of heeding advice, he'd rather acted rashly and then did these things to satisfy his obligation," said Mr Anand.

But District Judge Ong Hian Sun pointed out that there was a "grave breach of trust" on Kale's end.

According to court documents, Barclays managed to recover US$4 million after a settlement with Red Oak and Kale made restitution of $400,000 to the bank.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2019, with the headline 'Ex-banker jailed for cheating clients of $14m'. Print Edition | Subscribe