SkillsFuture scam: 6th person convicted

The  SkillsFuture Singapore scheme pays subsidies to local businesses when they send an employee for skills training courses with registered training providers if certain conditions are met.
The SkillsFuture Singapore scheme pays subsidies to local businesses when they send an employee for skills training courses with registered training providers if certain conditions are met. PHOTO: ST FILE

A freelance trader linked to the $39.9 million SkillsFuture scam was yesterday jailed for six years and eight months for money-laundering offences involving over $4 million.

Vincent Peter, 51, pleaded guilty last month to 12 counts of dealing with the benefits of criminal activities. He handled more than $4 million of the scammers' ill-gotten gains from Sept 12 to Nov 1, 2017.

He was the sixth person linked to the scam to be convicted. Other offenders, including former cleaner Manickam Pragasam, 58, had been sentenced to jail earlier.

The ruse targeting SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) has been described as the largest fraud against a public institution here. The SSG scheme pays subsidies to local businesses when they send an employee for skills training courses with registered training providers if certain conditions are met. This subsidy reimburses some of the course fees and is paid either to the training provider or the firm, depending on the claim method used.

The scammers used nine Singapore-registered businesses that submitted 8,386 fraudulent course fee grant applications and a corresponding 8,391 claims to SSG between May and October 2017. The court heard they were "dormant" firms with "no on-going business". About $39.9 million was disbursed by SSG to these entities, Deputy Public Prosecutor Gordon Lim said.

In 2012, Vincent got to know one of the alleged masterminds, Ng Cheng Kwee, 43. Court papers state Ng approached him five years later to find someone to encash cheques in exchange for an unspecified sum. Vincent accepted the offer and approached Manickam. On Sept 12 and 19, 2017, Vincent received the cheques from Ng and handed them to Manickam, who cashed them at Maybank branches. The latter passed the cash to Vincent and received $20.

Vincent, who was not informed about the source of the funds, handed Ng more than $1 million over the two days. Ng, whose case is pending, then gave him $3,000.

The court heard Vincent continued committing similar offences even though he "had reasonable grounds to believe that the cheques and encashed monies represented proceeds from criminal conduct".

Defence lawyer Ramesh Tiwary pleaded yesterday for his client to be sentenced to five years' jail, saying Vincent played a small role and was merely acting on instructions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2019, with the headline 'SkillsFuture scam: 6th person convicted'. Print Edition | Subscribe