Two Malaysian men who opened bank accounts in Singapore to receive money from scam victims paid the price yesterday for their roles in the plot - a version of what is commonly referred to as the "DHL parcel scam".
Suhaimi Jaffar, 36, was jailed for 20 months, while Mohammad Afiq Ishak, 24, was sentenced to 18 months. They are the first two people involved in the scam to be sentenced. The cases for 10 others are at the pre-trial stage.
Con men from the syndicate would pretend to be cops from China, call unsuspecting victims here, accuse them of crimes, and force them into releasing their banking details. Using these details, the scammers caused 348 victims to lose more than $19 million.
The syndicate is transnational, with a network of operators and runners in Malaysia, the court heard yesterday.
"Typically, the victims would be told that China police had intercepted a parcel that they had sent and that it contained illegal items," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Leong Wing Tuck. "The victims would then be threatened with reprisals unless they gave their bank account details and passwords."
The scammers would then make unauthorised electronic transfers and quickly arrange for the money to be withdrawn.
DPP Leong gave the details on four separate cases, all involving foreign victims living here.
On July 24, a 35-year-old Myanmar national and Singapore permanent resident received a call claiming the victim's bank accounts had been used for money laundering. The caller transferred the line to one "Inspector Feng" from "Beijing Interpol". The next day, the bogus cop asked for the victim's Internet banking details, and transfers of $13,700 and $11,700 were then made to Suhaimi's UOB account.
On July 25, a 37-year-old woman from China received a call from a "China policeman", who demanded her online banking details. Shortly after, $32,600 was transferred from her bank account to Suhaimi's UOB account, which was opened on July 22.
Suhaimi was arrested at the UOB branch at Woodlands Civic Centre on July 25, after police were notified by staff of his suspicious behaviour.
The syndicate's operators also impersonated local police, the court heard. On July 26, a 53-year-old man from China residing in Singapore received a call from a person claiming to be from the Singapore Police Force. Another person then claimed to be from the China Police Force and said the victim's particulars had been found on someone else, who had been arrested in China for dealing in "black money".
The next day, the victim got a call from one of the bogus cops who asked for his Internet banking details. Shortly after, $26,000 was transferred from his bank account into Afiq's UOB account.
On July 27, a 32-year-old woman from China fell prey to the same scam. She lost $19,900 after the money was transferred from her account into Afiq's UOB account, which had been opened on July 22.
Afiq was arrested at the UOB branch in Thomson on July 27.
In these four cases mentioned in court, all the money was recovered and will be returned to the victims.
DPP Leong said: "Both accused were promised financial rewards for their involvement in the syndicate. Afiq was promised the sum of RM4,000 (S$1,330), while Suhaimi was promised the availability of an indeterminate loan to clear his debts."
Suhaimi and Afiq could have been fined up to $500,000 and/or jailed for up to 10 years for their crimes.