More than 9 years' jail for man who cheated Iras into disbursing over $11.8m in productivity grants

Lim Chit Foo and two accomplices set up more than 200 shell companies to make false claims. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - A man and his two accomplices created more than 200 shell companies to obtain productivity grants, unlawfully obtaining over $11.8 million from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras).

On Monday (March 7), Lim Chit Foo, now 38, was sentenced to nine years and four months' jail. The Singaporean had pleaded guilty to 20 cheating charges in January.

The court heard that he had two accomplices - Wang Jiao, 39, and Li Dan, 38.

Some time before April 2015, Lim hatched a plan to make false claims under the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme, which granted cash payouts and bonuses to eligible companies to spur productivity.

From 2015 to 2016, the trio set up more than 200 shell companies and paid people to be nominee directors.

False claims were submitted under the PIC scheme for fictitious expenses incurred by the shell companies in the form of software and Web-based system purchases.

In one instance, Wang and Li got to know Chua Phoi Yong and told him that they needed a Singaporean who was not bankrupt to set up companies for them.

Li proposed to set up the companies in Chua's name and promised Chua that if the firms were profitable, he would get a cut of the profits.

Chua allegedly agreed and gave the fraudsters his Singpass ID and password to set up the businesses.

Between Oct 28, 2015, and May 25, 2016, Chua was appointed director of G & G Prestige.

On Li's instructions allegedly, he opened a bank account for the company and pre-signed blank cheques so that Li could withdraw money from the account at any time.

According to court documents, Wang and Li then submitted fraudulent PIC claims to Iras under the name of G & G.

Iras disbursed nearly $45,000 to the company's bank account on Jan 22, 2016.

The court heard that the trio repeated this mode of operation with more than 200 shell companies, and received around $11,793,000 from Iras.

Court documents state that in September 2016, a man working with the trio submitted documents to Iras which the agency suspected were forged.

Investigations found that there were more than 400 PIC applications submitted by the shell companies between 2015 and 2016.

In an earlier proceeding, Deputy Public Prosecutor Eric Hu told the court that only around $455,000 in funds have been recovered to date.

He added that Iras would have disbursed a further $8,487,000 to the swindlers had their PIC applications for these claims been successful.

Lim was represented by lawyer Bachoo Mohan Singh who told the court that his client is "deeply remorseful and wants nothing more than to put the matter behind him".

Mr Singh added: "He would like to inform this honourable court that he will not repeat such a mistake in the future and intends to engage in any rehabilitative techniques for the purpose of improving his moral worthiness."

For each count of abetment by conspiracy to commit cheating, an offender can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

The cases involving Wang and Li are still pending.

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