SINGAPORE: When the pastor of a church in Batam came across a S$10,000 note in a container of secondhand clothes from Singapore he had received to sell, he took it to a local moneychanger who purportedly told him it was genuine.
However, 49-year-old Indonesian national Jusuf Nababan later had reason to suspect the note was fake. Despite this, he went to Singapore to have the note broken down into smaller denominations, and had a friend hire a Singaporean man to help do so.
After the Singaporean man successfully deposited the note into his DBS account, the proceeds were split among the accomplices, and Jusuf frittered away the more than S$7,000 he received at the casino.
Jusuf was sentenced on Friday (Feb 19) to four years and two months' jail for one charge of conspiring to use a counterfeit note as genuine.
The court heard that Jusuf acquired the note sometime in 2019 and asked his friend and co-accused Yolanda to help him break down the note.
He said a moneychanger in Batam had told him the note was real, but he suspected the note was counterfeit, so he decided to get someone else to change the note for him so he would not be responsible should it be fake.
Yolanda, who goes by one name, contacted a Singaporean, Saw Eng Kiat, who was a security guard at Marina Bay Sands at the time.
The three accomplices met in Singapore and Jusuf passed Saw the note. Saw felt suspicious, because the note was handed to him so casually despite its supposed high value.
However, as he was facing financial difficulties, he decided to help out in return for a commission. After trying and failing to exchange the note at shops in Chinatown, Saw suggested to Jusuf and Yolanda to change the note at a bank instead.
The trio went to Harbourfront Centre, where Saw handed the note to a bank teller to be deposited into his account. The teller accepted the note after placing it on a machine, as she was unaware that the machine was not equipped with a counterfeit note detector.
Saw later withdrew the cash and handed over S$7,500 to Jusuf and S$1,000 to Yolanda. While Jusuf gambled away his share at the casino, bank staff soon realised the note was counterfeit and lodged a police report.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Kong Kuek Foo asked for at least 50 months' jail, similar to the sentence that co-accused Saw received.
"The usual range for similar offences is between three and five years' jail," said Mr Kong. "This is imposed even if the number of notes and amounts involved are small - which is not the case here, as we are dealing with a S$10,000 note."
SOLE BREADWINNER OF FAMILY WITH FOUR CHILDREN: DEFENCE
Defence lawyer Mohamed Muzammil Mohamed said an appropriate sentence would be between 40 and 45 months' jail. He said his client was married, with four school-going children, and is the sole breadwinner of his family.
He was in the business of secondhand goods, especially clothes, and would buy the clothes in Singapore before getting them transported to Jakarta, where he sold them off.
"So when he received this container, this particular container of used clothes, he found a S$10,000 note," said Mr Muzammil.
He said Jusuf kept the note and went on his usual business. On top of his secondhand goods business, Jusuf was also a pastor of a Christian church in Batam, and was "a devout Christian", said Mr Muzammil.
He checked with a moneychanger in Batam, who purportedly told him that the note was genuine, but that it had ceased circulation in Indonesia, said the lawyer.
The moneychanger supposedly asked Jusuf to seek help from someone in Singapore, so Jusuf contacted Yolanda, who he met frequently at a casino in Singapore.
"Foremost in his mind is - he wants to be reunited with his wife and children, whom he has not seen since his date of remand (in) November 2019," said Mr Muzammil.
The judge said counterfeiting currency is a very serious offence "which not only undermines the economy but also impacts the public confidence in the monetary system".
He said Saw had been given 50 months' jail, and Jusuf's sentence should not be anything less.
For using a counterfeit note as genuine, he could have been jailed up to 20 years and fined.