Three get 20 months' jail for trying to sell fake gold to Singapore businessman

SINGAPORE - Three Chinese nationals who tried to sell a businessman pieces of bogus gold for $120,000 were on Friday jailed for 20 months each.

Hu Wanli, 37, Liu Aimin, 42, and Zhang Fasheng, 44, told him they had found their treasure in a porcelain urn while digging at a construction site here.

They slipped a strip of real gold into an ingot that had been partially sawed down the middle, retrieved the strip after pretending to cut it in front of their would-be victim, and handed it over for a goldsmith to check.

The strip was verified to be authentic and a final price was later agreed upon. But the businessman had already smelt a rat by the time they returned to his office to complete the transaction. Police turned up and arrested the trio.

On Friday, the Chinese nationals pleaded guilty to engaging in a conspiracy in November last year to cheat Mr Roland Tay Hai Choon, the director of Direct Funeral Services. The 199 ingots and six Buddha figurines they had offered him, all gold-coloured, were found after analysis to contain mainly copper and zinc.

The court heard that at least two of the three scammers were in Singapore for the first time. The goods to be sold were delivered by mail to the HDB room in Hougang they had rented for their stay here, though they told their landlord they were businessman looking for "business opportunities". They carried in six strips of genuine gold.

They decided to target Mr Tay after coming across an advertisement he had taken out in a magazine, which they had bought to search for potential victims.

Besides the urn containing the ingots and Buddha figurines, they claimed to have found old Chinese currency and a will.

They said they were crane operators whose contracts here were about to end, and would not be able to bring their find back home due to import restrictions.

Calling for 18 months in jail for each of the men, Deputy Public Prosecutor Victor Lim pointed out, among other things, the premeditation and planning that had been involved.

But imposing the 20-month terms, District Judge Christopher Goh said those who come to Singapore for the sole purpose of committing crimes had to be prepared to face the music.

They could each have been jailed for 2 1/2 years and fined.

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