Last person linked to $40m ruse involving largest fraud of govt funds to date pleads guilty

David Lim Wee Hong admitted that he was part of the syndicate that duped SkillsFuture Singapore into disbursing almost $40 million. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE – He helped a syndicate to launder some $40 million – a sum which the prosecution said was the largest fraud of government funds to date – between Sept 7 and Nov 1, 2017.

On Friday, David Lim Wee Hong, 44, became the last person to admit that he was part of the syndicate that duped SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) into disbursing the amount as subsidies linked to skills training courses.

Of the nearly $40 million disbursed, the authorities managed to recover more than $18 million in cash, bank account balances, insurance proceeds, gold and jewellery. More than $21 million remains unaccounted for.

On Friday, Lim pleaded guilty to 15 charges, mainly for dealing with the benefits of criminal conduct. Another 33 charges will be considered during sentencing.

His accomplices – Andy Quek Sze Leng, 41; Sim Soon Lee, 45, and husband-and-wife pair Ng Cheng Kwee, 45, and Lee Lai Leng, 43 – were dealt with in court earlier. They were each handed jail terms of up to 17 years and nine months.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Ivan Chua, Jordon Li and Tan Zhi Hao stated in court documents that all five Singaporeans were important members of the criminal syndicate, and that the ruse involved the Course Fee Grant scheme.

As part of the initiative, Singapore business entities that sent employees to attend skills training courses with registered providers could apply for subsidies. Claims were submitted to SSG online.

The prosecutors told the court: “Using nine dormant entities, some 25,000 purported employees and a network of nominee directors and money mules, (Lim) and other members of the criminal syndicate submitted more than 8,300 fraudulent claims to SSG for training course subsidies... where there were no trainings conducted.”

Six of the nine organisations – YK Design Firm, YSK Consultancy Firm, Orient Altitude, Ky And Lin Firm, Glen Point Corp and CKL – were applicant entities. The remaining three – KKL Firm, SK Business Consultancy and Harman Star – were purportedly training providers.

Ng and Lee set up CKL in 2009 and it has been dormant since 2015. Ng incorporated the remaining eight entities in 2014 and they became dormant that year.

At the time of the offences, none of the nine entities carried out businesses or employed any workers.

From January 2017, the couple initiated actions to obtain the course fee grants from SSG. They registered the entities as applicant entities or training providers before using different computers to submit the claims.

The prosecutors said Lim and Ng had been friends since 2011 and Lim was later introduced to Lee. Between April and October 2017, all five offenders agreed to take part in the ruse to cheat SSG.

Nearly $40 million was disbursed into the bank accounts of all the entities except Glen Point. After that, most of the money was withdrawn via bank transfers or cash cheques.

On Nov 1, 2017, SSG lodged a police report over the claims. That same day, Lim received a call from Ng, asking him to leave $900,000 in the boot of a car.

The DPPs said: “Ng had told (Lim) that the police were probably looking for the car and asked (him) to park the car at a secluded place.”

Lim, who parked the vehicle around Greenleaf View near Holland Road, was arrested two days later.

On Friday, the DPPs urged the court to sentence Lim to up to 14 years and 10 months’ jail.

They said: “The accused was involved in the syndicate from the outset and was instrumental in the expansion of the criminal enterprise.”

Lim is expected to be sentenced on April 19.

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