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Singaporean on FBI's most wanted list fined S$210,000 for falsifying North Korea-linked invoices

Singaporean on FBI's most wanted list fined S$210,000 for falsifying North Korea-linked invoices

Singaporean Tan Wee Beng is wanted by the FBI for money laundering. (Photo: TODAY/Raj Nadarajan)

SINGAPORE: A Singaporean man who is on the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) most wanted list for money laundering was fined S$210,000 by a Singapore court on Wednesday (Oct 20) for falsifying invoices linked to businesses in North Korea.

Tan Wee Beng, 44, indicated that he would pay the fine in full by Wednesday.

He pleaded guilty last week to seven charges of falsifying invoices of two companies, with another 13 charges taken into consideration for sentencing.

The prosecution sought at least two months' jail, while the defence called for a high fine instead.

On Wednesday, District Judge Eddy Tham said Tan's offences involve the falsification of documents that were submitted to banks to conceal from them that certain deposits were the result of transactions with North Korea-linked entities.

"Financial institutions such as banks carry out a very important role ... and it's crucial that they have accurate information," said the judge. 

However, he noted that the prosecution was not challenging the assertions by the defence that the trade embargo against North Korea came into effect in Singapore in November 2017, whereas Tan had ceased all his activities linked to North Korea months before that.

"As such, all transactions were legitimate, and this was not an attempt to conceal wrongdoing," said Judge Tham.

While he noted that there was clearly personal gain involved for Tan, with credit facilities granted by UOB to his companies totalling about S$125 million, the judge said this was a case less egregious than others where falsehoods were practised for unlawful gain.

"I'm of the view that a hefty fine in the form of the maximum that can be imposed by the district court for each charge proceeded with is sufficient to send a deterrent message," he said.

Tan was the managing director and or shareholder of Wee Tiong, a commodities trading company, and its sister company Morgan Marcos. From 2007, he began trading with a Ri Nam Sok from North Korea, and started trade with Jon Chol Ho in 2010. 

Mostly, he sold sugar, soya beans and rice. Tan falsified bank invoices after UOB and OCBC sent queries to him between November 2016 and October 2017 about deposits of money into his two company accounts.

He did so as he was concerned that both banks would terminate their banking relationships with him if they discovered that the transactions were with North Korea-linked entities.

For each charge of falsification of invoices with intent to defraud, Tan could have been jailed up to 10 years, fined, or both.

A poster showing Singapore commodities broker Tan Wee Beng is wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (Image: Federal Bureau of Investigation)

Tan is listed in an FBI notice as being wanted for crimes including bank fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

He allegedly concealed payment origins and structured transactions to avoid regulator scrutiny in his trade with North Korea.

A federal arrest warrant was issued for Tan in August 2018 by the US District Court, Southern District of New York, after charges were filed against him.

Source: CNA/ll(zl)

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