Russian man who helped launder more than US$600,000 jailed

SINGAPORE - A Russian man, linked to an overseas crime syndicate that cheated its victims of more than US$600,000 (S$817,000), helped to open Singapore corporate bank accounts to launder the ill-gotten gains.

District Judge Luke Tan convicted him earlier this month of eight money-laundering charges and 22 counts of forgery.

In their submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutors Kevin Yong and Stacey Fernandez said: "This is possibly the first time where the Singapore authorities have managed to arrest and prosecute a foreign individual who was mostly based overseas, and who worked behind the scenes with others to exploit Singapore's financial system to perpetrate money-laundering offences."

The Russian, Zkert M. Rushdi, 57, was sentenced on Wednesday (Oct 30) to seven years and four months' jail.

Rushdi committed his offences from May to October 2016 and they involved more than US$327,000 in total.

The cases were linked to four victims from Indonesia, Australia and Bermuda who were cheated of the amount. Thirteen other charges for similar offences involving the remaining amount were considered during sentencing.

The DPPs said that Rushdi worked with a "shadowy individual" known only as "Iho" or "Ihab Khalil", helping him and his customers open corporate bank accounts in the name of shell companies.

Rushdi also worked with local corporate service providers to incorporate shell companies in Singapore by using the names of Europeans he recruited to be the foreign directors of these firms.

According to court documents, a man identified as Darrel Tan Hock Keat helped Rushdi in incorporating three companies - Glidertex, Plutusteam and Birseltex - and open bank accounts in Singapore under the firms' names.

 
 
 

A fourth company called Botitex was incorporated in Hong Kong in March 2016 and Rushdi also arranged for a bank account to be opened in its name here.

The court heard that Rushdi's sole purpose of setting up these shell companies was to open bank accounts here.

He would then accompany the foreign directors to Singapore to attend interviews with bank officers as part of the account-opening process.

These foreigners were just directors in name and the companies conducted no real businesses, the court heard.

The DPPs added: "He would provide the foreign directors with forged documents to fraudulently use as genuine during the interviews. Once the bank accounts were successfully set up, the accused would hand control of the accounts to Iho."

As a result of this arrangement, four bank accounts from DBS and UOB that Iho controlled received benefits of criminal conduct totalling more than US$327,000.

Rushdi, who was unrepresented, had earlier admitted that he was paid between US$1,500 and US$5,000 for every company he incorporated.

He had also claimed that the bank accounts were set up to allow "Iho's customers in Europe in enjoy tax-free concessions in Singapore for one year".

It was not mentioned on Wednesday how the offences came to light but Rushdi was finally arrested in Singapore on Oct 26, 2016.

The authorities managed to recover more than US$66,000 which could be traced to the victims.

For each count of money laundering, offenders can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined up to $500,000.