SINGAPORE: The mastermind of Singapore's largest ever casino chip scam, Toh Hock Thiam, was jailed seven years and four months on Wednesday (Jun 7).
The 55-year-old faced 13 charges under the Casino Control Act and was found guilty after a 14-day trial. Another 162 charges were taken into consideration, including a charge for fleeing the country illegally.
Toh's 16 runners had cashed the counterfeit chips at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) on Nov 22, 2015, cheating the casino of S$1,291,000. This is the largest scam of its kind since Singapore opened two casinos in 2010.
A week after Toh's accomplices struck, a casino cashier noticed a slight defect on one of the chips, which was worth S$1,000. A closer look with special equipment revealed it was indeed one of a total of 1,291 fake chips found.
The Casino Regulatory Authority said the fake chips were of the “best quality” it had seen. The counterfeit chips had five of nine security features possessed by genuine chips and were so expertly produced that they could not be distinguished from the real thing by the naked eye.
This "would have required financial resources and specialised knowledge and skills, typically only available to (criminal organisations)”, prosecutors said.
As the “mastermind”, Toh recruited two men, Soew Piak Long and Chia Wei Tien, who in turn recruited the 16 runners, the court heard. They also helped Toh to distribute the fake chips in a toilet at MBS, where they could avoid CCTV cameras.
The runners entered the casino together and cashed the chips. They were gone by the next morning.
On Nov 23, Toh deposited S$335,400 into his bank account. But he withdrew almost the entire sum by Dec 1 when he found out the police were after him. He fled across the border to Malaysia, where he was arrested on Dec 31 and extradited to Singapore the next day.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Asoka Markandu said Toh refused to cooperate with investigators. “He offered no leads … nor identified any of the contact numbers or photographs that were shown to him”, DPP Markandu said.
The prosecutor sought a jail term of seven and half years for Toh, saying that a “strong deterrent message must be sent to dissuade syndicates from operating here”. "Syndicates are often associated with the underworld and we cannot let these syndicates spread their tentacles here”, he added.
Although MBS found 1,291 fake chips, only 420 – worth S$420,000 – were traced back to Toh, DPP Markandu said. But the chips were “all the same”, so Toh was “either involved in the manufacture and distribution of all the chips or (he knew someone)”, he said.
For the conspiracy, Toh could have been jailed for up to seven years and/or fined up to S$150,000 per charge.
Seow and Chia are currently serving jail terms of 60 and 12 months respectively. Thirteen runners have also been jailed between five and 14 months. Another three runners remain at large.