SINGAPORE: A relationship manager at DBS Bank who cheated two bank customers, gaining more than S$200,000 for himself, was jailed for three years and 10 months on Thursday (Jun 6).
Liaw Tick Kwan, 37, met the victims, both retirees, separately while he was handling their investments at DBS.
He used the Internet banking security token of 73-year-old Chin Tian Loke to gain access to his account and make transfers of about US$102,700 (S$130,500).
He cheated the other customer, 67-year-old Chou Ching Ping, by lying to her that she had reaped money from one of his clients' investments, and asking her to withdraw the sum so she would get even more profits.
Madam Chou withdrew about S$67,000 from her DBS account and handed the cash to Liaw.
Both were vulnerable victims, the prosecution said. Mr Chin's highest education level was Secondary 4, while Mdm Chou's was the equivalent of Singapore's primary school level. Both relied on Liaw to manage their financial affairs and would not find it easy to recover their losses as retirees.
Liaw carried out the offences between 2013 and 2015, when he was first a relationship manager at DBS before moving to an equivalent role at Standard Chartered Bank in 2014.
He was arrested after Mr Chin checked with both banks on his suspicion of fraud and lodged a police report.
Liaw pleaded guilty to four charges including cheating, concealing benefits of crime and unauthorised access to computer material, with another two charges taken into consideration.
In total, Mr Chin suffered losses of about US$102,700 while Ms Chou lost about S$42,200.
Of the money Liaw pocketed, he spent some on personal expenses and some to buy real estate in Cambodia under his wife's name.
He returned about S$24,500 to Standard Chartered after police investigations began in 2015, as the bank had reimbursed Mr Chin that amount. He also paid Mr Chin a further US$10,300 last year.
LIAW ABUSED NOT JUST VICTIMS' BUT BANK'S TRUST: PROSECUTION
Deputy Public Prosecutor Norman Yew asked for a jail sentence of at least four years and four months, saying that the case involved "very huge" amounts.
He added that Liaw gained financially and abused the trust not only of the victims but of the bank, failing to deal with his customers fairly and honestly despite being entrusted to do so.
"In our modern economy we do depend on bankers to run through various transactions and if we can't trust them any more, then our financial system will be in disrepute," said the prosecutor.
He added that the offences were premeditated and that Liaw had taken measures to minimise detection, funnelling the funds from Mr Chin's account to Mdm Chou's.
Although Liaw had made partial restitution, the amount was "rather small" and was less than 20 per cent of the losses caused to the victims, said the prosecutor.
Defence counsel Kalidass Murugaiyan said his client had no previous convictions and had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.
He added that Liaw "can be reintegrated completely into society" and that "his young family awaits him".
He urged the court to impose a sentence of 40 to 42 months' jail so as not to "crush the accused person" with the "substantially higher" term the prosecution was seeking.
For each count of cheating, Liaw could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.