Man admits to handling $4m in criminal proceeds

Activities linked to $39.9m SkillsFuture scam; he is sixth person to be convicted

A freelance trader linked to the $39.9 million SkillsFuture scam has admitted to money-laundering offences involving over $4 million.

The scam that targeted SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), which oversees an initiative aimed at promoting lifelong learning, has been described as the largest fraud against a public institution here.

Vincent Peter, 51, pleaded guilty yesterday to 12 counts of dealing with the benefits of criminal activities. He was the sixth person linked to the scam to be convicted.

Four of them, including former cleaner Manickam Pragasam, 58, and driver Roger Quek Si Guang, 33, have been jailed.

Last Friday, former convict Ang Cheng Guan, 47, pleaded guilty to a range of offences, including six money laundering charges. He will be sentenced next Friday.

The SSG scheme pays subsidies to local businesses when they send an employee for skills training courses with registered training providers if certain conditions are met.

This subsidy reimburses some of the course fees and is paid either to the training provider or the firm, depending on the claim method used.

The scammers used nine Singapore-registered businesses that submitted 8,386 fraudulent course fee grant applications and a corresponding 8,391 claims to SSG between May and October 2017.

The court heard that they were "dormant" companies with "no on-going business". About $39.9 million was disbursed by SSG to these entities, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Gordon Lim.

In 2012, Vincent got to know one of the alleged masterminds behind the scam, Ng Cheng Kwee, 43, after leasing a coffee shop stall from him.

Court documents state that Ng approached him five years later to find someone to encash cheques in exchange for an unspecified sum.

Vincent accepted the offer and approached Manickam to do the task.

On Sept 12 and 19, 2017, Vincent received the cheques from Ng and handed them to Manickam, who cashed them at Maybank branches.

Vincent, who was not informed about the source of the funds, handed Ng more than $1 million over the two days.

Ng, whose case is still pending, then gave him $3,000. Manickam received $20 after giving the cash to Vincent on Sept 12, 2017.

The court heard that Vincent continued committing similar offences even though he "had reasonable grounds to believe that the cheques and encashed monies represented proceeds from criminal conduct".

Vincent handled more than $4 million from Sept 12 to Nov 1, 2017.

He will be sentenced on Nov 8.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2019, with the headline Man admits to handling $4m in criminal proceeds. Subscribe