SINGAPORE - The managing director of a Singapore-based cruise and leisure firm went to France to collect €3.5 million (S$5.6 million) as a deposit from the buyer of a sea-going vessel - only to later discover that some of the cash he received was counterfeit, a district court heard on Monday (June 25).
But, by the time Mr Daniel Chui Mun Yew from the Oceanic Group found the bogus notes, his Singapore office had already handed over the commission totalling $1.5 million in cash to the buyer's agents.
Two Europeans linked to the ruse were each jailed for 2½ years on Monday. Dutch national Predrag Nikolic, 46, and Dalida Nikolic, 36, who is French, each pleaded guilty to two counts of dealing with the benefits of criminal conduct totalling about $1.1 million.
The Straits Times understands that they are related but court documents did not state the exact nature of the relationship between the pair. Deputy Public Prosecutor Charis Low told the court that early last year, Mr Chui entered a cross-border arrangement as a broker for the sale of a vessel to a foreign buyer. Court documents did not reveal the buyer's identity and the vessel's cost.
The Nikolics and two alleged accomplices, Frenchman David Weidmann, 37 and Romanian Iosif Kiss, arrived in Singapore in late August last year. The Nikolics' air ticket, food and lodging were paid by the con artists in France.
Predrag Nikolic was told that he would receive €3,000 for his role in the scam and he promised to share this with Dalida Nikolic.
On Sept 2 last year, Mr Chui met one of the buyer's representatives in Paris to collect the deposit of €3.5 million. At the same time, Weidmann and Kiss were in Oceanic's Singapore office to wait for him to receive the money in France.
Mr Chui then told his staff to give the two European men the $1.5 million in commission after collecting the deposit at around 7.40pm. He only discovered the counterfeit notes about 15 minutes later. Court documents did not disclose the total number of bogus notes found.
Mr Chui alerted his Singapore office to recall the $1.5 million but by then the two men had already fled the premises with the disbursed money.
The police were notified and the pair were caught at Woodlands Checkpoint later that day. They had a total of about $400,000 in cash hidden underneath their clothes.
Before they were caught, DPP Low said that Predrag Nikolic collected a suitcase containing about $1.1 million in cash from Weidmann in a toilet at City Square Mall in Little India.
Two days later, Dalida Nikolic received a call from a person named Sresko in Paris, asking her to meet a man known as Muhammad Shafee Mohamed Anees in Serangoon Road to hand over $340,000 of the cash.
She did as she was told but Mr Shafee later told her that there was a shortage of $450. DPP Low said that investigations revealed that the sum of $339,550 was successfully remitted and could not be recovered by the police. She did not mention where the money went.
The court heard that the Nikolics were arrested in their hotel room on Sept 5 last year and officers recovered more than $700,000 from them. The cases involving Kiss and Weidmann are still pending. Mr Shafee's case is still under investigation.