SINGAPORE - A Singapore-based company director has admitted in court his connection to a 2008 case in which Citibank in New York was duped into transferring US$27.2 million (more than S$37 million) from the corporate account of the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) to various beneficiaries worldwide.
On Thursday (May 16), a Singapore district court heard that between Oct 2 and 16 that year, Citibank received 24 payment instructions purportedly sent by NBE and it later transferred the money to various other accounts in countries such as Australia, Japan and China.
One of the accounts was provided by the Nigerian director of Singapore-based wholesale company Pags Resources, Paul Gabriel Amos, who received a call from a friend asking him for one into which the ill-gotten gains could be transferred.
That friend, Robert Umohette, told Amos about his involvement in various projects with the Ethiopian government and said they had cheated it of money.
Amos agreed to take part in the plan on condition that he would receive a cut of the criminal proceeds.
The 47-year-old Singapore permanent resident was later caught and sentenced on Thursday to three years' jail after pleading guilty to two counts of dishonestly receiving stolen property totalling more $1 million. He also admitted to one count of money laundering.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Shamini Joseph told District Judge Victor Yeo that even though Amos agreed to take part in Umohette's plan, he did not want to "get into trouble" with the Singapore authorities by using his company's account to receive the ill-gotten gains.
He later spoke to a man identified only as Mohammad Sohail and they decided to use the bank account of Australia-based firm, Mac-Warners, to receive the cash. Court documents did not state how this company was linked to the pair.
Oct 2, 2008, Citibank unwittingly transferred more than US$1.8 million from NBE's corporate account to one belonging to Mac-Warners.
Umohette then told Amos to transfer a portion of the cash to a bank account belonging to a Singapore-based firm named Ideal Con.
Acting on Amos' instructions later that month, Mohammad Sohail transferred nearly US$670,000 from Mac-Warners' bank account to Ideal Con's.
The court heard that Amos also received more than $420,000 of the criminal proceeds as his commission.
Between October and November 2008, Singapore's Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) received information from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Australian Federal Police about the fraudulent instructions received by Citibank.
CAD later seized the money which had been transferred into Ideal Con's bank account and returned it to the bank.
During investigations, more than $34,000 was recovered from Amos, who also made restitution totalling $100,000.
For each count of dishonestly receiving stolen property, he could have been jailed for up to five years and fined.
Separately, Amos was also fined $4,200 and disqualified from driving all classes of vehicles for a year for offences including driving his blue Lamborghini in a dangerous manner.
In the incident, he was driving along the East Coast Parkway on Oct 2, 2016 when he sped through a narrow gap between two vehicles.