She took $1.5m from firm by forging company cheques

A 46-year-old office administrator entrusted with her company's cheque book made off with more than $1.5 million over six years, a District Court heard.
A 46-year-old office administrator entrusted with her company's cheque book made off with more than $1.5 million over six years, a District Court heard. PHOTO: ST FILE

A 46-year-old office administrator entrusted with her company's cheque book made off with more than $1.5 million over six years, a District Court heard.

Siti Fatimah Hassan spent the money on personal expenses - such as property in Malaysia, a BMW car and travel holidays.

Yesterday, she was jailed for 71/2 years after pleading guilty to 49 out of 226 charges: 46 counts of forgery, one of falsification of accounts, and two of transferring the benefits of criminal conduct.

The remaining charges were taken into account in sentencing.

The court heard that Siti Fatimah was hired by Alcan Singapore in June 2008 with a monthly pay of about $3,500. In February 2010, the firm was acquired by Amcor, which then became her employer.

Alcan manufactures, exports and supplies alloys, while Amcor is a global packaging company.

Among other duties, Siti Fatimah handled human resource administration and accounts matters. She was also responsible for liaising with vendors and suppliers, and arranging for their payments.

She was also entrusted with entering travel, entertainment and office expenses into her employer's electronic accounting system.

Just three months after she was hired, however, she began issuing cheques to herself by forging the signatures of either of two authorised signatories.

She continued doing so until October 2014, progressively increasing the money she pilfered. In 2008, she made off with $35,715. But in 2014, the sum was $761,820.

To cover her tracks, she would record the amounts she filched as payments in the company's books for fictitious expenses for travel or other items supposedly incurred by various senior executives.

She would enter a fictitious vendor or supplier invoice number into the company's accounting system, thereby producing a falsified payment voucher.

She would deposit the forged cheques into her DBS savings account before moving the money elsewhere.

In January 2013, for instance, she made a telegraphic transfer of $3,000 to a Hong Leong Bank account in Malaysia. And in October 2014, she transferred $172,200 into a DBS fixed deposit account.

The prosecution asked for a total jail sentence of 71/2 to eight years.

Said Deputy Public Prosecutor Eugene Sng: "The prosecution submits that it could only have been unbridled avarice that led to this dramatic escalation in (her) criminal conduct. This is apparent both from what (she) spent the money on - including such frivolities as a home in Malaysia and a luxury car - and the fact that the significant sum of almost $500,000 was seized from her bank accounts."

Siti Fatimah has since paid back $36,625 to her employer. Her savings and fixed deposit accounts - with $30,791 and $465,012 respectively - were seized by police.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2016, with the headline 'She took $1.5m from firm by forging company cheques'. Print Edition | Subscribe