Ex-Chopard manager jailed 15 years for siphoning $11.2 million

An artist's impression dated 2009 of Chopard's jewellery boutique in Ngee Ann City, Singapore.
An artist's impression dated 2009 of Chopard's jewellery boutique in Ngee Ann City, Singapore.PHOTO: CHOPARD

SINGAPORE - The former accounting manager of luxury goods company Chopard who siphoned $11.2 million from her employer over a period of 6 1/2 years was on Monday (Aug 15) sentenced to 15 years' jail.

Chew Siew Lang, 53, misappropriated most of the money using erasable ink to write on cheques made out to Chopard's suppliers for bogus transactions.

After getting the required two signatures - Chew herself was authorised to sign Chopard's cheques - she replaced the payee's names with her own.

The offences took place between January 2006 and August 2012.

Chew spent at least $2.1 million of her ill-gotten gains on 4D lottery bets - she wrote 76 cheques of between $20,000 and $68,000 to a Singapore Pools retailer to gamble the money.

In December last year, she pleaded guilty in the High Court to 56 charges - six counts of criminal breach of trust, 30 counts of falsification of accounts and 20 counts of using the benefits of her criminal conduct.

Another 187 similar charges were taken into consideration.

The prosecution had sought 18 to 20 years' jail. But the defence argued that Chew has an impulse control disorder which turns her into a pathological gambler.

The case was adjourned after Justice Woo Bih Li questioned if there was a causal link between her mental disorder and her offences.

On Monday, Chew's lawyer, Mr Daniel Chia, told the court that his client is not pursuing the point about her disorder after the prosecution submitted two psychiatric reports. He sought a jail term of 12 years.

In sentencing, Justice Woo noted that it was good that Chew has the support of her family. "However, I also have to take into account that you misappropriate a very huge sum for which only a small portion has been recovered," said the judge.

Chopard, a Geneva-based company known for its watches and jewellery, did not know that Chew was embezzling money and found out only when the Commercial Affairs Department started investigating her based on a tip-off.

The company sacked her in August 2012 and two months later, filed a civil suit against her. It has only managed to recover $197,000.