SINGAPORE - The mastermind behind what is commonly referred to as the DHL parcel scam, involving a total of about $983,000, was sentenced to 8½ years' jail on Monday (Nov 27).
The scam involved fraudsters posing as employees of a courier company, who would call victims and accuse them of sending parcels that contained illegal items.
Malaysian Teng Weng Liang, 26, was identified as the brains behind the operation that has already seen three of his countrymen jailed.
When the victims denied sending such parcels, the phone call would be transferred to someone pretending to be a police officer, who would tell the victims that they would have to cooperate with authorities if they wanted to clear their names.
The victims, usually the young or the elderly, would be tricked into revealing their Internet banking details on the false premise that the "authorities'' needed to access their bank accounts to carry out investigations.
In some cases, the victims were directed to a phoney police website to key in their personal particulars and details of their bank accounts.
In other cases, the victims would be persuaded to transfer the money themselves, or to share their Internet banking details, including one-time PINs, which the fraudsters used to transfer money to bank accounts that Teng and his countrymen controlled. Teng would direct his runners to withdraw the money that was transferred to these accounts.
Teng used four bank accounts to launder money, two of which were furnished by men who were also charged for their part in the scam. The other two - a United Overseas Bank account belonging to Greatland Company and a DBS Bank account belonging to Thaithanawat Song - were obtained from an unknown person in Malaysia.
Teng's accomplices - Malaysians Ooi Lun Xiang, 23, Hiu Sheng Fatt, 22, and Tee Jia Yong, 23, have already been sentenced to jail terms of six years, five years and 40 months' jail respectively.
Between June 30 and July 4, 2016, a total of $723,992 belonging to 25 victims were deposited into the bank accounts for Greatland and Song. Police were able to recover $663,139 from both accounts.
Between July 11 and 13 that year, $114,761 belonging to seven victims were fraudulently deposited into Ooi's POSB account. Teng had been implicated in withdrawing $34,400.
The next day, $143,800 belonging to four victims were deposited into Hiu's UOB account. Teng made five withdrawals totalling $121,900.
Victims fell prey to the scam either because they feared criminal prosecution or because they genuinely wanted to assist law enforcement authorities.
Teng was also involved in secret society activities with a syndicate operating out of Taiwan.
Seeking a sentence of at least 81/2 years to be imposed, Deputy Public Prosecutor Asoka Markandu said a stiff sentence would send a strong signal to foreign syndicates who wish to operate in Singapore that money laundering offences would be dealt with severely.
Teng's lawyer Zaminder Singh Gill said in mitigation that his client initially did not know that he was dealing with a syndicate. By the time he knew, he was "too deep'' into it and was unable to pull himself out. He said Teng was not the head of the syndicate nor was he responsible for starting the whole scam.
Teng was convicted of 10 of 54 charges under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act. Two other stood-down charges will go for a pre-trial conference on Dec 4.
Teng's sentence was backdated to Sept 3 last year.
The maximum penalty under the CDSA is a $500,000 fine and 10 years' jail for each charge.