Man to be charged over suspected involvement in $1m scam with fake China officials

SINGAPORE - A 66-year-old man will be charged in court on Thursday (March 11) over his suspected involvement in a scam where people posed as China officials to trick a woman into handing over around $1 million.

On April 9 last year, the victim reported that she had received unsolicited calls from unknown people claiming to be working for the Chinese government.

She was purportedly deceived into thinking that she was being investigated for transnational offences and was then told to hand money to two female "agents" to absolve herself of the crimes, police said in a statement on Wednesday.

These "agents" collected about $1 million in cash from the woman and passed it to several people, including the 66-year-old suspect.

Investigations revealed that he received $209,370 from one of the agents last year between March 31 and April 8.

The man is believed to have been instructed by foreign clients to receive the cash and to make arrangements with foreign business contacts in Hong Kong.

He allegedly transferred the money without a valid licence to perform the service.

The sum of $209,370 was recovered and seized, the police added.

The man will be charged under the Payment Services Act for unlawfully carrying on a business of providing a payment service in Singapore without a licence.

Those convicted of the offence can be fined up to $125,000 and jailed for a maximum of three years.

Preliminary investigations by officers from the Commercial Affairs Department have also shown that the female "agents" allegedly acted under the instructions of scammers to collect cash from other victims in Singapore.

The "agents" were told by the scammers that the funds would be sent to the Chinese authorities, the police said.

Members of the public are advised to ignore unsolicited calls to hand over money in order to avoid criminal investigations, they added.

No local government agency will request payment through an undocumented medium such as a telephone call, demand that cash be handed over to unnamed people or ask for personal banking information such as Internet banking passwords, the police said.

Foreign residents receiving calls from those claiming to be police officers or government officials should also call their embassy or high commission to verify the callers' claims.

Those unsure about what to do should contact a trusted friend or talk to a relative.

They can also call 999 or approach a police officer at a nearby neighbourhood police centre.

The police also warned members of the public not to collect money on behalf of callers claiming to be officers from law enforcement agencies.

"Such callers are likely to be scammers, and members of the public who act on their instructions would be arrested and investigated," they said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.