Two people who played key roles in the Keppel Club membership scam were jailed yesterday for helping its mastermind sustain the $37.5 million fraud for years.
Former supervisor Nah Hak Chuah, 67, who was attached to the club's membership department, made false entries in the club's electronic database to enable non-existent memberships to be sold. He was sentenced to jail for three years.
Meanwhile, club member Ivy Cheo Soh Chin, 67, was jailed for 4½ years for acting as a money mule in the scheme.
Both followed the road map laid out by Setho Oi Lin alias Irene Setho, 70, the brains behind the scheme to sell 1,341 fake memberships to Singapore's oldest country club.
Setho started working at the club in 1966 as a general clerk and rose to become personal assistant to the general manager. She was also in charge of membership matters, and started selling fake club memberships to buyers as early as 2004, when she was made an executive. She has pleaded guilty and is due to be sentenced on Feb 9.
The club stopped selling new memberships from 1996. Anyone wanting to become a member has to buy the membership from an existing member at a mutually agreed price. The purchase price includes a fixed transfer fee of $12,840 and an account activation fee of $300 to $530, to be paid to the club.
Setho would create "fake" or phantom sellers to sell such memberships and pocket the proceeds, which went into the bank accounts of Cheo, her daughter, mother and brother-in-law.
Nah was instructed by Setho to create new membership accounts in the electronic database. He admitted to 30 of 1,280 charges of falsifying accounts over a 10-year period last November, while Cheo, who was Setho's friend, pleaded guilty to 20 of 303 charges of money laundering.
Setho would tell interested people there were Keppel Club memberships available for transfer, when she knew this was false.
Cheo then provided the names and bank accounts to deposit the money. After buyers' cheques or cashier's orders had been deposited, Cheo would withdraw the money in cash and hand it to Setho.
Cheo received a cut of $500 to $1,000 for each transaction.
Seeking a jail term of at least 41/2 years for Cheo, Deputy Public Prosecutor Hon Yi said she was motivated by greed, and the amount of loss caused by her offending behaviour was staggering.
Principal District Judge Bala Reddy agreed, saying that "she has actively participated in this criminal enterprise with elaborate and meticulous planning for the fraud to remain undetected for a decade".
In Nah's case, the DPP asked for a jail term of at least three years. He said Nah's offences struck at the heart of Keppel Club. He had knowingly breached his duty of fidelity to his employer and facilitated the fraud perpetrated by Setho.
Nah's lawyer Daniel Atticus Xu said his client, a widower, had a "timid" personality and followed Setho's instructions. He did not benefit financially from his acts.
Cheo's lawyer Wee Pan Lee said in mitigation that his client and her daughter had agreed to pay the club $250,000 to resolve the civil suit. The sum included Cheo's commission of at least $151,500 for her help.
Judge Reddy said it was clear that there were inadequate checks and controls at the club over membership enrolments. This, and lack of proper auditing, enabled Setho and Nah to continue their activities undetected for a long period.