Jailed over bank transfer ruse involving $2.4m from kin's account

Over a three-year period, a former director of an asset management firm transferred money from an elderly relative's account to his company by tricking BNP Paribas into believing that he had received instructions from her to do so.

Shen Tsu-kuang, 52, would then transfer the funds from his firm, Linden Asset Management (Belize), to his private account. In all, he transferred more than US$1.78 million (S$2.4 million).

Appearing in a district court in shackles yesterday, Shen pleaded guilty to seven charges of cheating and was sentenced to 45 months in jail. Thirty other similar charges were taken into consideration.

At the time of the offences, the Taiwanese was a director of Linden Asset and the firm had a corporate bank account with the Singapore branch of BNP Paribas Private Bank, the court heard.

Some time before September 2009, Shen's aunt-in-law, 74, contacted him for advice on transferring her assets from her bank account to another bank.

Shen advised her to open an account with the BNP Paribas branch and helped her to do so.

His aunt-in-law authorised BNP Paribas to hold all correspondence relating to her account, including statements, advice and notices, on her behalf. This meant that she would not get information on activities and transactions in her account.

She also authorised the bank to get instructions through fax, and signed a Power of Administration which allowed Linden Asset to undertake administrative actions on her behalf. This included furnishing instructions to the bank for transactions authorised by her.

On 35 occasions between 2009 and 2012, Shen sent fraudulent fax instructions, purportedly signed by his aunt-in-law, to the bank to deceive it into believing that she had authorised the transactions.

Funds credited to Linden Asset's bank account were transferred by Shen to his personal account in Taiwan on the same day or within a few days of receipt.

It was not mentioned in court how Shen's offences came to light.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Cheng Yuxi urged the court to impose a jail sentence of at least 44 months, calling Shen a "serial offender". The DPP said the fact that a financial institution was cheated could affect confidence in Singapore's banking industry.

Defence lawyer Adrian Wee pleaded for a 36-month jail sentence, pointing out that Shen had no prior convictions. Mr Wee added that his client was apprehended when he came to Singapore on a social visit pass in 2019 and was not "on the run".

Principal District Judge Victor Yeo noted that hardly any restitution was made and that Shen's offences were "quite clearly not a momentary lapse of judgment, but premeditated".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2021, with the headline 'Jailed over bank transfer ruse involving $2.4m from kin's account'. Subscribe