Man who jumped bail and went on the run for 21 years pleads guilty to forgery charges

SINGAPORE - A Singaporean man charged with multiple counts of forgery to fraudulently obtain credit cards jumped bail in 1996 and fled to Malaysia. The cards were used to incur more than $34,000 in charges.

After about 21 years on the run, Tan Say Wee, now 46, surrendered himself to the Singapore authorities on Aug 28 last year. He had found out that his father had lung cancer and he wanted to look after the elderly man.

On Wednesday (Jan 10), Tan pleaded guilty to four counts each of committing forgery for the purpose of cheating and taking part in a conspiracy to commit such crimes. Ten other charges for similar offences will be considered during sentencing.

The court heard that in early February 1996, Tan had in his possession a sales agreement for the purchase of a flat jointly owned by Mr Teo Choon Huat and Ms Teng Kin Leng.

Tan also had a tenancy agreement between his mother and one Ms Ang Swee Lian. Court papers did not mention how he got them.

These documents contained information such as the four people's full names, NRIC numbers and signatures.

One of Tan's friends, William Chiah Wee Ming, also 46 now, suggested using the information to fraudulently apply for credit cards and Tan agreed to be part of the plan.

Tan then forged documents purporting to be letters of authorisation for Chiah to collect notices of assessment (NOA) from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore on behalf of Mr Teo and Ms Teng. Tan also filled up a Hongkong Bank credit card application form in Mr Teo's name and signed it. The NOA and and application form were submitted to the bank.

The bank later issued two credit cards bearing Mr Teo's name to Chiah, who used them to incur almost $22,000 in charges.

The two men, using a similar method in March, obtained credit cards bearing the names of Ms Teng and Ms Ang. Chiah again used the cards to incur charges, this time totalling more than $12,000. He paid Tan a total of $600 for providing him with the names of their three victims.

Deputy Public Prosecutor David Koh said on Wednesday: "(Tan) realised that he could also carry out such fraudulent applications for credit cards on his own. As such, he decided to use the name and particulars of his uncle, Tan Beng Hui, to apply for credit cards."

In August the same year, Tan and Chiah tried to obtain a Diners Club International card in Mr Teo's name. However, when the company contacted Mr Teo, he said his particulars had been used to apply for credit cards without his consent.

Tan was about to collect the card at Toa Payoh Central Post Office on Aug 30 when a Diners Club employee, who had been waiting there, confronted him. The police were alerted and officers arrested Tan. He was released on bail and fled to Malaysia before his court appearance on Nov 8.

Tan's lawyer, Mr Choo Si Sen, told the court on Wednesday that his client ran a coffee stall and has two daughters in Malaysia. He will be back in court on Jan 17. Chiah is still at large.