SINGAPORE - A former cleaner allegedly handed over more than $10,000 of her savings to a friend of some 30 years to take part in a purported investment scheme that did not exist, a district court heard on Wednesday (Jan 9).
Madam Boo Sok Hiang, 71, also introduced her friend of 50 years - petrol station pump attendant Tan Soy Kiang - to the scheme because she wanted him to benefit financially.
In 1999, he withdrew his entire Central Provident Fund savings and dishwasher Tan Hwee Ngo later received the cash. After that, he allegedly gave her least $500 monthly via Madam Boo.
Referring to Mr Tan as Ah Tan, Madam Boo, who died of heart disease on April 21, 2016, told the police: "If I had known this scheme was non-existent, I would not have roped Ah Tan in."
Her police statements were read out in court on Wednesday, the first day of Tan Hwee Ngo's trial for allegedly cheating Mr Tan of at least $130,000.
Tan Hwee Ngo, 69, is accused of dishonestly inducing Mr Tan, now 74, into withdrawing $53,161.64 from his CPF savings account in 1999 by saying payments were needed for a Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
She also allegedly used the same reason to cheat Mr Tan into handing over at least $500 monthly of his money from January 2000 to 2013.
It was not mentioned in court if the Mr Lee whom Tan Hwee Ngo had allegedly been referring to was Singapore's late founding prime minister.
She is now accused of 169 cheating charges and all of them have been proceeded against her.
Quoting Madam Boo's statements to the police, Station Inspector (SI) Manoj Kalwani told the court on Wednesday that Tan Hwee Ngo was the mastermind of the ruse while Madam Boo had acted as a middleman between Mr Tan and the accused.
SI Kalwani also testified that Madam Boo had handed between $10,000 and $20,000 of her own money to the accused over a period of about 15 years.
The case came to light when Mr Tan's niece, Madam Pamela Lim Puay San, lodged a police report on Feb 3, 2014, stating that her uncle had been giving away all of his income to a woman.
SI Kalwani told District Judge Terence Tay that he was alerted about the case on Feb 5, 2015. Officers then recorded statements from Tan Hwee Ngo and Madam Boo.
Madam Boo told officers that day that Mr Tan had once suggested marrying her, but she rejected his proposal. However, they still remained good friends.
She gave the police another statement on Jan 12, 2016. Quoting her second statement, SI Kalwani testified that she referred to Tan Hwee Ngo as "Ah Ngo".
Madam Boo said: "It started when Ah Ngo mentioned that Yeo Hiap Seng had this intention to help senior citizens by giving high returns.
"To take part in this scheme, I can contribute $390 and I will get back $500 from Yeo Hiap Seng... I then decided to take up this offer and invested $390 which I gave Ah Ngo in cash."
When she did not receive any returns later, she approached Tan Hwee Ngo about the matter who allegedly told her that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had stepped in to take over "this senior citizen scheme".
Madam Boo told police that according to her friend, since Mr Lee had taken over, he needed to do "a lot of administrative and legal procedures" so the subscribers needed to continue to contribute to the legal and administrative payments.
She added: "Ah Ngo then asked me to start making payments again for the procedures... Ah Ngo kept telling me that if I don't pay by the following day, I would need to pay double. So, I was just scared and did not want to... get into trouble."
Madam Boo stated in the statement that she realised she had been cheated after the police interviewed her in February 2015.
However, defence lawyer T. M. Sinnadurai told the court that in her police report, Madam Lim suggested that Madam Boo had threatened Mr Tan to obtain cash from him.
SI Kalwani told Judge Tay that he did not address with matter with Madam Boo when taking statements from her. The trial resumes on Thursday.
Offenders convicted of cheating can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined for each charge.