Jail for 'corporate money mule'

Abdul Ghani, who was granted bail pending appeal, still faces 16 similar counts involving another two of his companies.
Abdul Ghani, who was granted bail pending appeal, still faces 16 similar counts involving another two of his companies.

Company director jailed more than 2 years over laundering of $1.2m, made to pay costs

The director of a company which engaged in money laundering involving some $1.2 million was jailed for more than two years yesterday.

Abdul Ghani Tahir, 51, was convicted on seven counts after an eight-day trial last year.

He was also ordered to pay $3,992 in costs to the prosecution, and will be disqualified from being a company director for five years after he serves his sentence of 26 months and four weeks.

He successfully applied to be bailed out, pending an appeal, but still faces 16 similar counts involving another two of his companies. These charges are at a pre-trial stage.

The total amount of alleged illicit fund transfers in and out of his three companies is about $2 million.

Abdul Ghani, a former finance secretary of Malay-Muslim non- governmental organisation Majlis Pusat, is also accused of cheating the Singapore Tourism Board and other government agencies by inflating expenses incurred for the 2012 Hari Raya Aidilfitri light-up project in Geylang Serai.

He is a chartered accountant and owner of A&G Corporate Services, which provides corporate secretarial services to small and medium- sized enterprises.

As part of these services, he incorporates companies on behalf of clients and acts as the resident director of companies with directors who are overseas.

Recent records show he has held various appointments in more than 110 business entities here, mostly in roles such as director and secretary.

In December 2011, he incorporated World Eastern International on behalf of a Romanian man, consenting to be its director even though he had never met him. The company was supposedly involved in the "wholesale of parts and accessories for vehicles".

But between April 11 and May 28, 2012, $403,867 in stolen money was deposited into the company's bank account, and $795,802 was transferred out, to accounts in China, Morocco, the United States, Geneva and Hong Kong.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Ang Feng Qian asked for 30 months' jail, telling the court that Abdul Ghani is the first person to be prosecuted as a "corporate money mule".

She also asked for $24,907 in costs for the "unnecessary and extravagant expenditure of state resources in order for witnesses to testify to matters that were not disputed by the defence".

She noted, for example, that a Sudanese victim testified for over an hour, but was cross-examined for only 12 minutes.

Defence lawyer Dilip Kumar asked for a fine or a short jail term. He said: "The accused was not dishonest (but) merely negligent."

In passing sentence, District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan said Abdul Ghani failed to exercise "reasonable diligence" when incorporating the company, and also "breached practically all of his obligations as a director subsequent to incorporation".

The judge agreed on the need for a stiff sentence, noting the amount of money involved and the "global reach of the offences".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2016, with the headline 'Jail for 'corporate money mule''. Print Edition | Subscribe