SINGAPORE: Two Malaysian men were sentenced to jail on Wednesday (Oct 19) for their involvement in what's known as the "DHL parcel scam", which has seen 348 victims lose S$19 million as of end-August.
Suhaimi Jaffar was sentenced to 20 months’ jail, while Mohamad Afiq Ishak was jailed for 18 months. Both pleaded guilty to charges under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act.
Suhaimi, 36, and Afiq, 24, were part of a Malaysia-based transnational syndicate which runs the parcel scam. The fraudsters posed as employees of courier company DHL and told victims that they had a parcel containing illegal items. The victims would then be threatened with legal action if they refuse to hand over their bank account details to “clear their names”.
Both men had opened bank accounts in Singapore to receive money from victims of the scam.
NO RUN-OF-THE-MILL MONEY MULES
Suhaimi and Afiq were arrested in July when they were attempting to withdraw proceeds from the scam.
The men are “definitely not run-of-the-mill money mules”, prosecutors said. They “formed an important link in the chain. They were essential to extracting the (monies) from Singapore and ferrying (the proceeds) to Malaysia. (Without Suhaimi and Afiq), the scam would have been ultimately toothless”, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Leong Wing Tuck.
Suhaimi made a day trip to Singapore on Jul 19 to open a UOB bank account. He was helped by four unknown syndicate members: ‘Azmin’, who told Suhaimi to open the account at UOB’s Toa Payoh branch, two Malay men who met Suhaimi upon his arrival and drove him to the bank, and ‘Din’, who called Suhaimi on a mobile phone lent to him by the drivers to give him further instructions.
On Jul 25, Ms Li Hong Mei received a phone call from a person claiming to be a police officer in China. The bogus officer said Ms Li had sent a parcel to China containing illegal goods. To resolve the issue, the officer said he needed her personal and bank account details.
Ms Li lodged a report when she realised that S$32,600 had been transferred out of her account and into Suhaimi’s.
On the same day, Ms Nan Mya Sein was tricked into transferring S$25,400 into Suhaimi’s bank account. This was after she was told by a fake Beijing Interpol officer that her bank account was being used to launder money, and that she should transfer the money out to help police “track down the culprit”.
Suhaimi made another trip to Singapore on Jul 25 – the day of the transfers – to withdraw S$46,300 from his account. He was arrested at the bank before he could withdraw any money.
Afiq’s case is exceedingly similar. He was arrested here on Jul 27 while attempting to withdraw money from his UOB account. Two victims had realised that unauthorised transfers amounting to S$45,900 had been made from their accounts following calls from fake police officers asking for their bank details.
SCAMS ‘A MENACE TO OUR SOCIETY’
The scams are “a menace to our society”, DPP Leong said.
“Given that the organising entity…appears to be located overseas…there are serious challenges in bringing the upper echelons of the syndicate to justice."
"There is almost zero hope for recovery if the funds leave our (jurisdiction) through end-of-line syndicate operatives like Suhaimai and Afiq,” the prosecutor said, calling for a deterrent sentence of 20 to 24 months’ jail for each man.
The losses sustained by some victims are huge and its impact on them devastating.”
“Scams are adept shape-shifters,” prosecutors cautioned. “As the public becomes accustomed to one form of scam, scammers will simply peel off one veneer and replace it with another.
Suhaimi and Afiq are the first of 12 people involved in the scam to be sentenced.
For their crimes, the men could have been jailed for up to two-and-a-half years and fined up to S$500,000.