Man jailed for 9½ years after misappropriating nearly $4 million from employer

SINGAPORE - An accountant misappropriated nearly $4 million over four years from his employer by issuing cheques which he later deposited into his own bank accounts.

Some of the money was also deposited in a friend's account.

Filipino Ariel Biasong Salamanes, who worked for QlikTech Singapore from April 1, 2012, to July 5, 2017, issued 451 cheques before remitting nearly all of his ill-gotten gains out of Singapore.

His former employer is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Swedish software firm QlikTech International.

Salamanes, 42, was sentenced on Wednesday (Sept 25) to 9½ years' jail after pleading guilty on Tuesday to three counts of criminal breach of trust and five falsification of accounts charges.

He had also admitted to seven counts of removing the benefits of his criminal activities out of Singapore. Another 267 charges were considered during sentencing.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Cheng Yuxi said that as an accountant, Salamanes' responsibilities included handling items such as balance sheets as well as profit and loss statements.

He also had access to his employer's cheque books linked to two bank accounts. He was later authorised to sign singly on the cheques for payments of any amount up to $10,000.

The court heard that he misappropriated the money from April 23, 2013, to June 13, 2017.

After receiving the ill-gotten gains in his bank accounts, Salamanes would withdraw most of the monies and remit them overseas via various remittance agencies.

The remittances to the Philippines were to bank accounts belonging to Salamanes as well as his family and friends, said the DPP.

She added: "To ensure that his misdeeds would go undetected, he instructed others to make false entries into the company's electronic accounting system, making them believe the cheque payments were legitimate. He did this by sending them photocopied 'dummy cheques' he created, which contained false recipient names on the cheques, and fictitious purposes for the payments.

"The accused created each dummy cheque as follows: first, he filled in the amount and date, but not the payee name on the original cheque. He then signed the original cheque, and photocopied it. Finally, he wrote a payee name on the photocopied cheque, which was usually the name of a random employee of QlikTech."

Following an internal investigation in June 2017, QlikTech's finance director alerted the police about the case about three months later.

Salamanes has made no restitution but the court heard that QlikTech managed to claim about US$2.856 million (S$3.93 million) from its insurer, which was almost the entire sum misappropriated.

DPP Cheng had urged District Judge Ong Luan Tze to sentence Salamanes to at least 11 years' jail and added: "The accused clearly abused the trust that the company reposed in him, given that as an accountant, book-keeping was one of his main roles."

Defence lawyer Christine Sekhon pleaded for her client to be sentenced to about nine years' jail.

She told Judge Ong that Salamanes contributed to charity and said: "The accused bought and brought to many rural villages in the Philippines slippers and footwear for children and adults who were so poor that they walked barefoot as a way of life."

On Wednesday, Judge Ong said that Salamanes' offences were "well-planned and executed". She also stressed that monies were not his to give.

For each count of criminal breach of trust, he could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined.

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