SINGAPORE: A man who deposited a counterfeit S$10,000 note at a DBS bank branch was sentenced to four years and two months' jail on Thursday (Mar 5).
Saw Eng Kiat, 61, had pleaded guilty to one count of using as genuine a counterfeit currency note at the DBS Bank branch at Harbourfront Centre on Oct 11 last year.
Saw, who was a security officer with Marina Bay Sands at the time, had been contacted by an Indonesian woman, 46-year-old Yolanda, a week before the offence.
She said she had an Indonesian friend, co-accused 48-year-old Indonesian Jusuf Nababan, who had a S$10,000 note.
She claimed that Jusuf needed help to change the note to smaller denominations, as he could not change it in Indonesia because the amount was so large.
Yolanda, who is also a co-accused, told Saw that Jusuf promised to give a commission of S$1,000 each if Yolanda and Saw helped him.
Wanting to get the commission, Saw agreed to help and suggested changing the note at an antique store in Chinatown, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Jotham Tay.
On Oct 11, 2019, Saw met Yolanda and Jusuf at a coffee shop at People's Park Centre. Jusuf handed the note to Saw, and told him to say that Saw's late father had left it behind.
Saw took a photo of the note and went to two antique shops in the area, but when he showed the photo to the employees, he was told that the note had no value and was rejected.
Saw then suggested to Yolanda and Jusuf, who were waiting for him at the coffee shop, to try changing the note at a bank instead.
They took a cab to Harbourfront, where Saw entered the DBS Harbourfront branch while the two co-accused waited outside.
Saw handed the counterfeit note to the DBS bank teller and said he wanted to deposit it into his bank account. The teller deposited the note and helped Saw withdraw S$5,000.
Saw took the cash and withdrew another S$2,000 from a nearby ATM machine.
He met up with the two co-accused and handed them the S$7,000 in cash. Jusuf gave Saw an additional S$500 on top of the S$1,000 commission he was owed.
Saw then transferred S$1,500 to Yolanda - S$1,000 for Yolanda's commission and S$500 was the outstanding balance for Jusuf.
Meanwhile, bank staff realised that the S$10,000 note was counterfeit and lodged a police report. The note was seized and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) found that it was not genuine.
SAW HAD DOUBTS, SUSPICIONS OVER NOTE'S AUTHENTICITY
Saw was arrested and admitted to investigators that he had known that something might have been "wrong" about the note, and that it might be fake.
He had told Yolanda that he was doubtful that anyone would pay a commission for exchanging a genuine note.
He also found it suspicious that Jusuf handed a huge amount of money to him and trusted him with it even though they had met only once.
He also sensed something amiss when Jusuf told him to lie and say the note had been left behind by his late father, the court heard.
Saw also said that he was nervous and afraid while waiting for his queue number to be called at DBS bank because he had no confidence in the note's authenticity.
However, he used the note because he wanted to get the S$1,000 commission initially promised to him, and he later used the total commission of S$1,500 to pay his bills.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Jotham Tay said the maximum sentence was 20 years' jail and a fine, but said he was seeking four-and-a-half years' jail.
He explained that usually, three years' jail is imposed for counterfeit notes of S$100, four years' jail and up for S$1,000 notes, and six years for a case where S$24,000 worth of fake notes were used.
"We have nevertheless scaled down a little bit on the sentence recommended, bearing in mind the accused's personal profit was S$1,500," said Mr Tay.
District Judge Marvin Bay told Saw that this was a very serious offence, drawing about three years' jail even for smaller denominations. However, he told Saw that he would get a third remission of his sentence if he behaved himself in prison.
Saw, who was unrepresented, said he knew his mistake and said he did not "have any way at all".
He said he was recently divorced and was under a bit of stress. He had also gotten into trouble with loan sharks and had snowballing debts. He added that he had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and was diabetic.
The prosecutor added that it is "well-known that the integrity of currency needs to be protected", as it is something the financial system relies on.
The judge gave Saw a slightly lower sentence, noting that he had been induced into the scheme, and that the prime movers of the case were Jusuf and Yolanda, who are believed to be working for a syndicate.
Their cases are pending.
Police said in a statement last year that people should remain vigilant and examine any S$10,000 Portrait Series notes, as they are not commonly available.