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Former bank worker jailed for embezzling S$1.13 million, replaced notes with fake ones and blank paper

Former bank worker jailed for embezzling S$1.13 million, replaced notes with fake ones and blank paper

File photo of a bank safe. (Photo: iStock)

SINGAPORE: Over two years, a banking operations specialist pocketed a total of S$1.13 million from his company's safe either by withdrawing more cash than was allowed for customers or by replacing genuine notes with fake currency and blank sheets of paper.

He spent the money on his own debts and expenses, gambled cash away at the Marina Bay Sands casino and placed bets at Singapore Pools, hoping to win enough to repay the money he had embezzled.

Tan Chen Yen, 38, was on Monday (Dec 20) sentenced to seven years and five months' jail.

He pleaded guilty to six charges including criminal breach of trust by a servant, buying and using counterfeit currency notes, and falsification of accounts. Another 14 charges were considered in sentencing.

The court heard that Tan worked for Bank Pictet & Cie, a bank in Marina Bay Financial Centre, from February 2015 to August 2018. As a banking operations specialist, he was responsible for matters regarding a safe that the company had on its premises, containing currency notes such as United States dollars, British pounds, euros and Swiss francs.

He was tasked with facilitating clients' cash deposits and withdrawals, ordering currency notes from United Overseas Bank to replenish the notes in the safe when supply ran low and other accounting duties.

However, between late 2016 and August 2018, Tan began taking the money for himself.

He did this in two ways. First, he would order notes from UOB under the pretext of replenishing the supply in the safe. 

He would then take the money for himself and replace the genuine currency with bundles of counterfeit notes or blank sheets of paper that he cut in the shape of currency.

The second method was to remove more cash from the safe than his clients sought to withdraw and pocket the excess amounts.

On Aug 30, 2018, a Pictet employee found an envelope full of blank sheets of paper cut in the shape of currency notes and reported this to the chief operating officer, who ordered a physical count of the notes in the safe.

After learning that the envelope had been found, Tan confessed that he had been taking the notes from the safe.

Pictet conducted a physical count of the notes in the safe a day later and discovered that almost all of them had been replaced with fake notes or blank sheets of paper sandwiched between two genuine currency notes.

They determined via an internal investigation that Tan had misappropriated notes of various currencies from the safe, totalling S$1.13 million. Tan later repaid S$62,258 to the bank.

He later admitted to spending the money on repaying his debts, gambling and on his personal expenses.

The prosecutor called for between seven years and six months' jail and seven years and 10 months' jail, saying that the amount involved was substantial, with only "minimal belated restitution".

Pictet was unable to recover most of the money that Tan misappropriated, as the contents of the safe were insured only for robbery and not misappropriation by an employee.

However, the prosecutor noted that Tan did not give counterfeit notes to customers, which would have damaged public confidence in Singapore's banking system.

Tan was suffering from a gambling disorder at the time of the offences, but the prosecutor argued that there was no causal link between his disorder and the offences.

"Having a gambling disorder does not lead one to embezzlement and that is a conscious decision on the part of Mr Tan, finding an 'easy' solution for his debts," said the prosecutor, citing a psychiatric report.

The judge backdated Tan's jail term to when he was first remanded in October 2019.

For criminal breach of trust as a servant, he could have been jailed up to 15 years and fined. For using as genuine counterfeit currency notes, he could have been jailed up to 20 years and fined per charge.

Source: CNA/ll(ac)

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