Jail for man who helped steal S$30,000 in bungled illegal remittance deal at Jurong Point
A man had reservations about dealing with the group, including the accused, and eventually called the police, prompting the two men to take S$30,000 from him before fleeing the scene.
SINGAPORE: Two men went to the Subway restaurant at Jurong Point to collect money from a customer of an illegal money exchange business, but when the man refused to hand over the cash, they stole a bag containing S$30,000 from him.
One of the two men was sentenced to three months' jail on Wednesday (Apr 12) for his involvement.
China national Chen Shuo, a 23-year-old machinist working for Ace-Z, pleaded guilty to one count of abetting theft by holding the man down so his accomplice could wrest the bag of cash away.
A second count of being involved in an illegal payment service business was taken into consideration.
The court heard that Chen assisted the mastermind of an unlicensed payment service business, exchanging Singapore dollars to Chinese yuan and vice versa.
The mastermind, 40-year-old self-employed Singaporean Tan Zhixian, used chat applications like Telegram and WeChat to publicise his illegal services and communicate with clients.
Chen was roped into the illegal business by 32-year-old China national Zhang Kexi, who worked at West Pharmaceutical Services.
Chen helped Tan and Kexi collect money from clients a few times before the incident occurred.
In January 2022, Kexi spoke to a customer on WeChat: Mr Zhang Renfei, a 39-year-old China national and Singapore permanent resident who was self-employed and sold crystals via livestreaming on Facebook.
Mr Zhang wanted to exchange S$100,000 to Chinese yuan. An agreement was made for a rate of S$1 to 4.8 yuan, and Mr Zhang was to provide S$100,000 to Kexi in exchange for receiving 480,000 yuan in his designated accounts in China.
After getting this request, Kexi informed Tan of the deal, but was told that they needed to see the money before making any transfers as the remittance transaction involved a large sum.
The plan was for Tan to remit 115,000 yuan to Mr Zhang's bank accounts in China and to collect a sum of S$24,109 from Mr Zhang first. If this went through successfully, the subsequent amount would be exchanged in three transfers.
On Jan 17, 2022, Kexi asked Chen, who was on leave, for help with the transaction.
Chen met Kexi near Jurong Point in the afternoon. They were supposed to meet Mr Zhang near a block of flats in the vicinity to get the cash, along with Kexi's colleague, 33-year-old China national Wang Anquan.
CUSTOMER'S RESERVATIONS, FEARS
However, Mr Zhang had reservations about meeting there as he was alone and holding onto a large sum of money.
The conspirators then wanted to meet Mr Zhang inside Jurong Point and take him to the block of flats, but Mr Zhang refused to leave the shopping mall, fearing for his safety.
Wang and Chen waited with Mr Zhang inside Jurong Point, until Wang had to leave for another appointment and was replaced by another colleague of Kexi's - 29-year-old China national Zhang Xichao.
After the 115,000 yuan had been transferred, the group told Mr Zhang about it. However, Mr Zhang said he had not received the money and refused to hand over any of the cash he carried in a paper bag.
Kexi, who had been handling the transaction and giving out instructions from elsewhere, went to join Chen and Xichao at Jurong Point.
Kexi asked for the S$100,000 in cash, as the agreed amount of 480,000 yuan would soon be transferred to Mr Zhang's accounts. However, Mr Zhang refused, claiming that he had not received any money.
Kexi called Tan to tell him what was going on, and Tan insisted that the 115,000 yuan transfer had been made. He told Kexi to obtain the equivalent sum of S$24,109 from Mr Zhang "by hook or by crook", or else Kexi would have to bear the responsibility for any losses sustained.
Kexi feared that the situation would escalate and got Xichao to leave with his sling bag containing cash from prior transactions.
Mr Zhang refused to hand over the cash and entered the Subway outlet at Jurong Point before calling the police for help, saying: "Someone want to take my money. Three of them here."
Kexi and Chen followed him into the shop and tried to take the money from him. A struggle ensued and Chen held Mr Zhang down while Kexi grabbed some money from the paper bag.
They then ran out of the mall with S$30,000.
Afterwards, Chen, Kexi and Xichao went to Geylang to eat and have a massage. Kexi paid for the others before taking a cab home.
The men involved in the incident were later arrested.
MONEY REMAINS UNRECOVERED: PROSECUTOR
The prosecutor asked for three months' jail for Chen. He said Chen had benefitted partially from expenditure arising from the snatched cash.
Even though S$26,050 was recovered, Mr Zhang still suffered a loss of S$3,950.
Although Chen did not know how much money Kexi wanted to take, he knew that Kexi intended to snatch at the very least the equivalent of the 115,000 yuan transfer. This was a sum that Mr Zhang repeatedly said he had not received.
It was a brazen crime that occurred in broad daylight in a public place, said the prosecutor.
"This is a classic case of an unlicensed remittance or currency exchange transaction gone wrong that provides a cautionary tale of the inherent risks of conducting such transactions outside the bounds of regulatory safeguards and between complete strangers," he said.
The prosecution noted that this was Chen's first offence, and that Chen cooperated with investigations.
Wang and Xichao previously received three weeks' jail for their involvement as runners.
The cases for Tan and Kexi are pending.