SINGAPORE - A Singaporean who misappropriated nearly $5.2 million from clients was sentenced to seven years and nine months' jail on Tuesday (Aug 7).
Jacques Sai Meng Kiong, 46, also used a South Korean passport to leave Singapore, while under investigation for attempted suicide and criminal breach of trust (CBT).
Sai pleaded guilty to a charge of using a passport not issued to him and four CBT charges. Another 22 similar charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.
The court heard that Sai was the only director and shareholder of Re Suisse Financial Services, which was incorporated in 2009 and provided foreign currency exchange services.
As part of the service, clients would transfer money to the company's bank account. Sai would then act as an agent through the company, and approach OCBC Bank to convert the transferred amount into the currency requested by the client.
Sai would then remit the converted currencies back into the client's bank account.
In 2012, Re Suisse Capital came into operation, with Sai as its sole proprietor. The firm carried out investments on behalf of clients.
However, two years later, Re Suisse Capital ran into financial difficulties.
To pay off the debt, Sai dishonestly misappropriated clients' monies that were transferred to Re Suisse Financial Services, instead of converting them into foreign currencies and remitting the amounts back to them, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Weiming.
"Whenever the victims confronted the accused, the accused would give numerous excuses in relation to the remittance of the monies," he added.
In total, Sai misappropriated about $481,000, US$3.3 million (S$4.52 million) and 5.2 million Thai baht (S$213,000).
Sai was also convicted of using the passport of his South Korean friend Lee Chul Kap to leave Singapore.
In July 2015, Sai approached his business friend of 15 years to ask him to obtain a passport for him from Thailand so he could leave the country. At the time, Sai's Singapore passport had been impounded by the police.
Two months later, Mr Lee obtained a New Zealand passport from someone called Wint. However, Wint told Sai that he might have issues using the New Zealand passport to leave Singapore as it does not contain the Singapore Visit Pass endorsement and the immigration system would not show an entry record for the passport.
Wint then suggested that Sai use Mr Lee's South Korean passport instead, as it contained the Singapore Visit Pass endorsement.
With his friend's permission, Sai sent the passport via courier to Wint in Thailand for it to be altered.
Sai used the altered passport and left Singapore via the Woodlands Checkpoint on Sept 25, 2015. It was not stated when Sai returned to Singapore, but months later on May 28, 2016, he was arrested by Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officers.
For CBT, Sai could have been jailed for 20 years and fined. For using a passport that did not belong to him, he could have been jailed for 10 years and fined $10,000.
Correction note: This article has been edited for clarity.