Former clerk gets 18 years' jail for misappropriating more than $46 million from employers

Richard Tiang Teng Hoong embezzled the monies over at least 300 occasions between January 2007 and March 2014.
Richard Tiang Teng Hoong embezzled the monies over at least 300 occasions between January 2007 and March 2014.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - An accounts clerk used his employers' bank accounts as his "personal piggy bank" to misappropriate more than $46 million from them.

As Richard Tiang Teng Hoong stood in dock on Thursday (Feb 7), he closed his eyes and bowed his head after admitting that he had repeatedly abused his employers' trust and committed offences resulting in one of the highest monetary losses in Singapore's history of financial crime.

He appeared dazed and heaved a sigh when the judge sentenced him to 18 years' jail.

Tiang, who no longer works for the firms, embezzled the monies over at least 300 occasions between January 2007 and March 2014.

District Judge Mathew Joseph said the 69-year-old man had used the bank accounts of his employers as his "personal piggy bank" and added that the jail term has to deny the offender from enjoying the benefits of his crimes.

Tiang pleaded guilty on Thursday to 10 criminal breach of trust charges and five counts of dealing with the benefits of his ill-gotten gains.

Fifty-four other charges were considered during sentencing.

In 1990, Tiang joined Double Ace Trading Company, which managed four offshore companies: Esben Finance, Lismore Trading Company, Incredible Power and Rayley Co.

All four firms were in the timber trading business with no employees of their own. Instead, they used Double Ace to manage their operations and financial affairs.

Tiang's tasks included preparing payment vouchers and recording the movement of funds in the four companies' bank accounts.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Lim said: "The trust reposed by the employers in the accused, a long-time employee, was so great that they would simply sign blank cheques for the accused based purely on his word that these cheques needed to be used for the business operations of the offshore companies."

But Tiang abused their trust and siphoned away their money by depositing the cheques into his own bank accounts.

He also used false payment vouchers to unlawfully get hold of the funds.

DPP Lim said Tiang primarily used his ill-gotten gains for gambling activities and often placed weekly bets in excess of $100,000 with Singapore Pools.

He also visited the casino at the Resorts World Sentosa about thrice a week, spending about $20,000 on each visit.

On June 6, 2014, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) received information that Tiang had misappropriated funds from the four offshore firms.

However, court documents did not reveal details on how Tiang's offences were discovered.

Following this, the authorities seized Tiang's assets and he also surrendered the proceeds he obtained after selling items including his car.

The total value of the items seized and surrendered came up to almost $3 million.

On Thursday, DPP Lim said this amount made up only about 6.3 per cent of the total amount misappropriated.

He urged Judge Joseph to sentence Tiang to at least 18 years' jail and added: "The total amount of unmitigated loss far outstrips any mitigating weight that the accused's restitution may have on his sentence."

Defence lawyer Paul Loy pleaded for a sentence of 14 years' jail and told the court that his client is genuinely remorseful.

Before handing down the sentence, Judge Joseph said monies still unaccounted for, totalling about $43 million, was "hugely disturbing".

The judge also said Tiang had displayed an "egregious abuse of trust".