Ex-moneychanger gets 6 years for Criminal Breach of Trust of $4m

SINGAPORE - A former moneychanger who was convicted of misappropriating about $4 million from two customers was sentenced to six years' jail on Thursday.

Fazal Mohamed N.M.A.R. Mohamed Ebrahim, 52, was also fined $10,000 for carrying on business as a moneychanger without a licence after March 2011. He was in partnership with his late father in the business but lost his licence in March 2011.

He was found guilty, after a 32-day trial, of dishonestly misappropriating $3.7 million given by Ms Ng Hwee Boon, 50, and $269,482 given by Ms Angeline Ong Hsiao Wei, 41, for investment.

Ms Ng, a sales director, had testified that she met Fazal sometime in July 2010 when she intended to invest her money in the British pound. She went to Fazal's shop in The Arcade. Fazal suggested she invest in Euro instead, guaranteeing her 2.8 per cent returns on the invested sum over a two-week period.

Two weeks later, Ms Ng collected her initial invested sum in Singapore dollars. She realised that this was a good investment opportunity with good returns. She then invested more money with the moneychanger, who issued her an invoice for each investment. The invoice would state the sum invested, the guaranteed return and the maturity date.

On the maturity date, Ms Ng would either withdraw part of the returns and reinvest the rest of the money, or reinvest the entire sum.

Ms Ng introduced Ms Ong to Fazal. Ms Ong, an account manager, similarly left her funds with Fazal to invest in foreign currencies. She knew Fazal had been in the business of moneychangging for many years and so felt safe investing her money with him.

But Fazal told each of them around August or September 2011 that he was unable to pay them back the invested sums and the guaranteed returns. The two women made him sign promissory notes as evidence that he had to repay them.

The defence case was that the monies were given as loans.

Fazal could have been jailed for up to seven years and/or fined for each charge of criminal breach of trust. The maximum penalty for the moneychanging charge is a $100,000 fine and two years; jail. He is appealing against conviction and sentence. Bail of $400,000 was allowed.