Taiwan duo admit to their roles in scam

Two Taiwanese men pleaded guilty in court on Tuesday to the roles they played for a transnational syndicate from their country responsible for a spate of online police impersonation scams in Singapore.

Kuo Chih-chen, 32, who dealt with cash totalling $92,000, admitted to three counts of dealing with benefits of criminal conduct. Ciou Wei-min, 22, who dealt with $22,000 in cash, pleaded guilty to one count of a similar charge.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Asoka Markandu said the syndicate targeted young and elderly victims who could be duped easily. "Typically, a victim would receive a call from an unknown individual posing as a law enforcement officer from either the Singapore Police Force or the China Police Force. The victim would be told that they were suspected of being involved in illegal criminal activities such as money laundering, and would be asked to reveal their bank account details and secure PIN password, often on the pretext that such details were required for investigations," he said.

After accessing their victims' bank accounts, the fraudsters would make unauthorised electronic transfers and transfer the monies to the accounts of a second set of victims. The scammers would then instruct the victims who received the money to withdraw the cash and hand it over to a syndicate operative.

DPP Asoka said: "All the victims involved in the scam would follow instructions believing that they were dealing with a legitimate law enforcement agency that was carrying out investigations."

Kuo and Ciou were told to travel to Singapore to collect monies from people in the country and hand them over to others here. As a reward, the men were each promised NT$50,000 (About S$2,250).

Kuo arrived in Singapore on April 26 and met a man known as Lin Yi Hong.

Two days later , Kuo followed Lin to an overhead bridge opposite Bugis Junction to collect $41,900 from one of their victims. After that, the two men went to the Resorts World Sentosa casino, where Lin passed $40,000 of the money to an accomplice while Kuo acted as a lookout.

On May 2, Kuo met another victim outside Paya Lebar MRT station and collected $19,800 from him.

Ciou arrived in Singapore on May 5 and went with Kuo to Tampines later that day. They met yet another of the syndicate's victims, who gave Kuo $22,000 in cash. Ciou acted as a lookout during this transaction. The police arrested the two Taiwanese men later that day. DPP Asoka said Lin managed to leave Singapore before officers became aware of his role in the scam. Kuo and Ciou, who are unrepresented, will be back in court on Aug 30.

Shaffiq Alkhatib

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2017, with the headline 'Taiwan duo admit to their roles in scam'. Print Edition | Subscribe