Man jailed for role in $40m scam involving SkillsFuture

Ng Cheng Kwee (above) and his wife Lee Lai Leng are said to be important operatives in the syndicate behind the scam. Over two months, Lee moved their ill-gotten gains to her brother's Sengkang flat.
Ng Cheng Kwee (above) and his wife Lee Lai Leng are said to be important operatives in the syndicate behind the scam. Over two months, Lee moved their ill-gotten gains to her brother's Sengkang flat.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

His sister and brother-in-law were allegedly pulling off a $40 million SkillsFuture scam - the largest case of a public institution here being defrauded. They needed to park their new-found wealth somewhere.

Lee Chi Wai, 32, helped the couple squirrel away $6.7 million in cash and 11kg of gold valued at $626,500 in his Sengkang flat.

After admitting his role in the scam, he was jailed for five years and eight months yesterday. Lee, a trainer with an insurance firm until last December, is the first of five charged in court over the scam last year to be sentenced.

The cases against his mother, Tan Yoon Nooi, 60; sister Lee Lai Leng, 40; her husband Ng Cheng Kwee, 42; and Ng's friend David Lim Wee Hong, 40, are pending.

Ng is alleged to be the mastermind of the scam, which netted nearly $40 million in fake claims from SkillsFuture Singapore, an agency that gives out grants and funding for lifelong training.

The syndicate submitted more than 8,000 fraudulent course fee applications using nine shell companies whose bank accounts were credited with $39.9 million. Of this, $27.8 million was withdrawn and a portion handed to Lee's sister, Lee Lai Leng, for safekeeping.

She first transferred $49,950 to Lee's account, saying she could not have the money in hers. She then bought him a safe and would place large amounts of cash and gold in it.

On Nov 1 last year, she told him to empty the safe and hide the wealth elsewhere. Lee kept it at a friend's place, but the siblings were arrested the following day.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2018, with the headline 'Man jailed for role in $40m scam involving SkillsFuture'. Print Edition | Subscribe