SINGAPORE -A former financial planning senior vice-president of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) who lured unsuspecting seniors into opening bogus fixed deposit accounts and cheated them of more than $5 million was jailed for 10 years and six months on Friday (June 29).
Emeline Tang Wei Leng, 39, had earlier pleaded guilty to 34 charges, including cheating and forgery, while another 223 charges were considered during sentencing.
Four of her victims are family members. Among them is a 79-year-old aunt of her former husband and her 45-year-old sister-in-law. The other victims are two distant relatives - a pair of sisters aged 69 and 79 - and their 81-year-old friend. The names of the five victims were not revealed in court documents.
On Friday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Haniza Abnass urged District Judge Hamidah Ibrahim to sentence Tang to 10 years' jail.
Stressing that Tang, who worked for the bank between 2004 and 2012, had preyed on elderly and vulnerable victims, the DPP said: "The consequences of having lost their life savings is devastating for these elderly victims. Unable to work to recoup the losses inflicted upon them and left with limited funds, they have not only lost the ability to enjoy their golden years, they must spend those years in financial suffering."
The court heard that in 2003, Tang learnt from her husband that his aunt had come into some money after she had sold a property.
Tang got in touch with the older woman and lied to her, claiming that HSBC had fixed deposit plans that offered high interest rates of 3 per cent to 4 per cent. Tang volunteered to open a fixed deposit account for the woman.
Tang also persuaded her then husband's aunt to issue her a cash cheque for this, claiming it would be faster to deposit the monies that way.
Other elderly women in Tang's circle who heard about the higher interest fixed deposits also gave her cash cheques or cash to open accounts for them.
Tang kept the money for herself but prepared policy booklets purportedly issued by HSBC, bearing the bank's logo. The booklets included details such as policy numbers, maturity value, commencement and expiry dates.
Each time a victim asked for some money from her account, Tang would keep the scam going by handing over sums of cash that she claimed were interest payments.
Investigations revealed that Tang first kept the money she had collected from her victims in her own HSBC account. Later, to avoid suspicion, she cashed their cheques or kept the cash at home.
She kept up the elaborate ruse even after resigning from HSBC in 2012. She was busted only when some of the victims asked to withdraw their funds.
When Tang was unable to pay back the money, the victims got in touch with HSBC. It was only then that they learnt that they did not have any fixed deposit accounts with the bank.
Tang's lawyer, Mr Mathew Kurian, pleaded for his client to be sentenced to eight years' jail.
He said that she has returned more than $800,000 to the victims. He also said that Tang had used the money to settle the debts of her former husband, who had a gambling problem, and to pay for her father's cancer treatment.