Jail for woman who misappropriated $1.4m from charity and lost most of it to a scam

SINGAPORE - A 36-year-old woman used her position in the finance team of a charity to misappropriate over $1.4 million from it.

Aggiss Tan Shu Han even abused the opportunity given to her when she was in remand to make childcare arrangements for her daughter via her mobile phone - by text messaging a recipient of the misappropriated monies instead to tell her to lie to the police.

Tan was sentenced to jail for six years and seven months on Wednesday (July 28).

She pleaded guilty to one count each of criminal breach of trust, obstructing the course of justice, and giving false information to a public officer.

Three other similar charges were taken into consideration by District Judge Wong Li Tein during sentencing.

Tan was working as a finance and administrative assistant at registered charity The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease Asia Pacific Limited when she committed the offences in 2019.

Her duties included making bank transfers for purposes such as payments to consultants and suppliers.

In March 2019, she received an iBanking token for the charity's Standard Chartered Bank account from her colleague, Mr Cuthbert Syn.

Mr Syn had instructed her to make fund transfers between the account and the organisation's other bank accounts at the time.

Tan continued to keep the token after that, telling Mr Syn that she had forgotten to bring it to the office when he requested it back on subsequent occasions.

Between April 4 and June 10, 2019, she made 133 unauthorised transfers from the Standard Chartered account, taking about $1 million in total.

Tan would first request for funds to be transferred from the charity's DBS Bank account to the Standard Chartered account, then send an e-mail to the three signatories of the DBS account to ask them to approve the funds transfer.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Foo Shi Hao said the approval was given "in the belief that the said transfer was purely meant to be an intracompany transfer".

Tan would then use the iBanking token to make the unauthorised transfers from the Standard Chartered account.

Court documents said she transferred $797,000 of the money to third parties after falling for a scam. The remaining sum was used by her on personal expenses such as purchasing luxury goods and paying her debts.

Tan also took about US$322,000 (S$454,000 at the time) from another bank account belonging to the charity. The sum was also used for the scam and on personal expenses.

Her offences were eventually discovered in June 2019, when Mr Syn became worried by her repeated failure to return the iBanking token and decided to call Standard Chartered Bank to check on the status of the bank account.

To date, Tan has not made any restitution, while the police have recovered about $225,000 in cash and seized luxury goods.

On June 20, 2019, Tan was remanded at the Police Cantonment Complex Regional Lock Up over investigations into her offences.

She was allowed to use her mobile phone on compassionate grounds to make childcare arrangements for her daughter.

But Tan took the chance to send a WhatsApp message to a recipient of the misappropriated monies, Ms Liew Chwee Jen, instructing her to lie to the police. Tan deleted the message from her mobile phone after that.

She had done so to conceal the fact that she was paying rental fees to Ms Liew for her stay at a unit, where she had kept gold jewellery and luxury bags purchased with the misappropriated monies.

The court heard that Ms Liew later lied in her first statement to the police that she did not recall receiving the misappropriated monies from Tan.

But she admitted in a subsequent statement that Tan was paying rental fees to her, after Tan's message was found on her phone.

Tan also lied to a police officer on June 21,2019, that she had sold all the gold jewellery and luxury bags that she bought with the misappropriated monies.

Her sentence has been backdated to June 19, 2019, when she was first remanded.