Ex-CFO of crude oil products supplier who helped defraud 8 banks of $424m gets 9 years' jail

Ong Ah Huat and his alleged accomplices caused China Merchant Bank (CMB) Singapore to suffer losses totalling about US$10 million. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - The former chief financial officer of a crude oil products supplier who worked with three others to dupe eight banks into disbursing about US$320 million (S$424 million) in loans was sentenced on Monday (May 3) to nine years' jail.

Ong Ah Huat and his alleged accomplices caused China Merchant Bank (CMB) Singapore to suffer losses totalling about US$10 million.

The seven other banks are in Hong Kong - including Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong) and OCBC Limited (Hong Kong) - but court documents did not disclose the amount of their losses.

Ong, a Singaporean, had earlier pleaded guilty to 15 charges, including three counts of engaging in a conspiracy to cheat and nine counts of committing forgery for the purpose of cheating. Forty-three other charges were considered during sentencing.

His alleged accomplices were his former colleagues at Coastal Oil, which has since entered into liquidation.

The case involving Huang Peishi, now 35, who used to be the company's treasury manager, is still pending.

The other two - Mr Tan Sing Hwa and Ms Carol Zong - fled Singapore before the Commercial Affairs Department began investigations.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Thiagesh Sukumaran and Dhiraj Chainani had earlier told the court that Ong joined Coastal Oil as its chief financial officer in May 2016. Subsequently he found out that the firm was facing severe cash flow issues and was not generating enough revenue to sustain its business.

Ong also learnt that Mr Tan, who was a co-director, had devised a scheme to obtain credit to address Coastal Oil's financial woes and the ruse involved creating forged documents.

Ong agreed to continue perpetuating the scheme, which involved items such as forged sale and purchase contracts as well as tax invoices.

The DPPs added that Ong and the three others engaged in a conspiracy to cheat CMB and the seven Hong Kong banks between June 2017 and December 2018.

The court heard that Ong, who used to earn $15,100 a month, received benefits totalling about $325,000.

The offences came to light when the acting managing director of one of Coastal Oil's trading partners, Sinfeng Marine, lodged a police report on Jan 7, 2019.

The man told the authorities that Coastal Oil had submitted forged documents bearing Sinfeng's company and contract seals as well as signatures of Sinfeng's representatives.

Ong is now out on bail of $100,000 and he will surrender himself at the State Courts on May 31 to begin serving his jail sentence.

An offender can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined for each count of cheating.

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