Jail for money mule who collected more than $1 million in criminal proceeds

Looi Yu Chong pleaded guilty on Jan 25, 2019, to one count of dealing with the benefits of criminal activities totalling more than $655,000.
Looi Yu Chong pleaded guilty on Jan 25, 2019, to one count of dealing with the benefits of criminal activities totalling more than $655,000.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A money mule for an international crime syndicate, linked to a cheating case involving more than $5 million, came to Singapore twice in 2017 to collect over $1 million of the cash.

Looi Yu Chong then returned to his native Malaysia but was brought back here after officers from the Royal Malaysian Police arrested him on Jan 16 last year.

On Friday (Jan 25), District Judge Victor Yeo said that the level of harm in Looi's case was "severe" and sentenced the 21-year-old to four years and 10 months' jail.

Looi pleaded guilty on Thursday to one count of dealing with the benefits of criminal activities totalling more than $655,000. A second similar charge involving $500,000 was considered during sentencing.

Others connected to the syndicate took the remaining amount - almost $4 million. Court documents did not reveal their identities.

On Nov 7, 2017, a 58-year-old Singaporean retiree received a phone call from someone purportedly from "Chinatown police station" who told her that she was a suspect in a criminal case.

She was later told that the investigation would last seven days and that she would eventually be given documents to sign stating that she was "not guilty".

Pretending to be a police officer, a syndicate member told her to give him the details of her bank accounts and she complied.

After this, on 11 occasions, he told her to make withdrawals from her accounts and deliver the cash to different people who were purportedly from the Chinese government.

He also told her that by handing over the money, she would be assisting the police in a money laundering investigation.

The retiree complied out of fear and handed cash totalling more than $5 million to people including a 58-year-old sales promoter, a Singaporean woman who was also duped by the syndicate.

She was told that she too was suspected of being involved in criminal activities. Syndicate members told the sales promoter that to assist in investigations, she had to collect cash from strangers and deliver it to others.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Suhas Malhotra said that Looi, who was recruited in Malaysia by his secondary school friend known as Goh Kok Keong, received more than $1 million of the retiree's money from the sales promoter in Singapore on Nov 16 and 17, 2017.

He came to Singapore with one Khoo Chun Hean before returning to Malaysia. Looi received RM1,500 (S$490) for his role as a money mule.

On Thursday, DPP Malhotra urged Judge Yeo to sentence Looi to 5½ years' jail and added that the Malaysian was aware that he was involved in criminal activities.

Defence lawyer John Koh pleaded for his client to be sentenced to between 45 and 49 months' jail. He told the court that Looi was a "mere foot soldier" and was only 20 years old when he committed the offence. Khoo and Goh are still at large.

Looi has not made any restitution.