Former senior VP of HSBC pleads guilty to cheating victims, including her relatives, of over $5 million

SINGAPORE - A former senior vice-president of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) cheated five people - four of whom were her relatives - of over $5.2 million in a scam that spanned 12 years.

She did this to fund a gambling habit.

Emeline Tang Wei Leng, 40, pleaded guilty on Friday (June 1) to 34 charges including cheating, forgery and offences dealing with the benefits of criminal behaviour. Another 223 charges related to the same offences will be taken into consideration for her sentencing.

Her victims' names were not revealed in court documents.

The court heard that in 2003, Tang got to know through her husband that his aunt had come into some money after she sold a property.

Tang contacted the woman and lied that HSBC had fixed deposit plans that offer higher interest rates than other banks.

Tang told her that she could help with opening such a fixed deposit account.

The older woman agreed and though she initially wanted to issue cheques payable to HSBC for the plan, Tang persuaded her to issue a cash cheque, claiming that she will be able to deposit the monies faster that way.

She also scammed others who came to know of this non-existent investment plan, which she claimed paid out interest rates of 3 to 4 per cent.

Most of her victims - now aged between 45 and 81 years old - are related to her. Aside from her husband's aunt, she also scammed two of her distant relatives, her sister-in-law, and a friend of her relatives. They gave her cash cheques or cash.

Four of her victims are 69 years old or older.

After receiving the monies, Tang 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.

On the plans' purported maturity date, Tang contacted the victims and asked them if they wanted to continue. They would either tell her to roll over the interest or top up additional funds.

For those who gave more, she got the victims to return the policy booklets and supplied them with updated ones that were also false documents.

When victims asked to cash out their interest or withdraw part of their capital, Tang would hand them cash sums which she claimed to be interest payments, to keep up pretences.

Investigations revealed that Tang first kept the proceeds of her scam in her own HSBC account but to avoid suspicion from the bank, she would later cash the cheques over bank counters or keep the cash at home.

Tang spent close to $3 million of her illegal proceeds gambling at the Marina Bay Sands and Resort World Sentosa casinos.

Between 2003 and January 2015, whenever Tang was in financial difficulties, she would contact her victims to tell them about other fixed deposit plans or entice them with better interest rates to get more money.

Even after resigning from HSBC in 2012 as senior vice-president of financial planning, she kept up the elaborate ruse.

Her scam finally came to light when some of the victims asked to withdraw their funds from the plans.

When Tang did not do it, the victims contacted HSBC and were told, to their shock, that they did not have investment plans or fixed deposit accounts with the bank.

They also discovered that Tang had not been employed by the bank since 2012.

To date, Tang has returned the victims over $800,000 gained from her scam - a portion of which was actually given to the victims as "returns" from their investments.

She has been in remand since January this year. She will appear in court on June 26 ,and is expected to make her mitigation and be sentenced then.

For each count of cheating, Tang could face up to 10 years in jail, with a fine.