SINGAPORE: A couple who were “key members” of a syndicate that cheated SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) of S$39.9 million in grants were jailed on Monday (Aug 16) after pleading guilty to multiple crimes.
Husband and wife team Ng Cheng Kwee and Lee Lai Leng were convicted in April after admitting to offences including cheating, forgery and money laundering.
Ng was sentenced to 17 years and nine months’ jail, while Lee was sentenced to 14 years’ jail.
The couple were part of a criminal syndicate that used nine dormant business entities to cheat SSG of the grant money over six months in 2017.
Between January 2017 and July 2017, Ng, Lee and other members of the syndicate conspired to register the nine dormant entities as applicant companies and training providers with SSG.
Using the SingPass log-in credentials of Ng, Lee and their family members, they submitted various forged documents including CPF statements, utilities bills and rental bills to register those entities.
The couple then submitted fraudulent course fee grant applications and claims between April 2017 and August 2017. SSG disbursed more than S$400,000 of training grants to these entities.
The syndicate subsequently decided to perpetuate the scheme on a larger scale, said the police on Monday.
“They recruited other individuals as nominee directors for the nine entities to prevent their own names from appearing in the claims to evade detection by the authorities,” said the police.
In July 2017, Ang Cheng Guan, Tan Wee Kee and another person agreed to be the directors of the nine entities and handed over their SingPass credentials to the syndicate, in return for financial gains.
Between August 2017 and October 2017, the syndicate submitted fraudulent course fee grant applications and claims to SSG using these three’s SingPass credentials, with the agency disbursing more than S$39.5 million of training grants to them.
When the agency flagged some of the applications and claims for manual checks, Ng and Lee submitted forged or false documents between May 2017 and August 2017. These include employment contracts as well as attendance records of training courses that were never conducted.
In August and September 2017, the couple encashed cheques from the corporate bank account of one of these nine dormant entities.
Ng asked his acquaintance, Vincent Peter, to arrange for someone to encash the cheques from the corporate accounts of the nine entities that had been pre-signed by the nominee directors.
Vincent Peter approached two others to encash the cheques, and the cash was handed to Ng or another person in the syndicate to hand over to Lee.
The cash was placed in a safe belonging to Lee’s brother, Lee Chi Wai.
The husband and wife discussed how they could use the “benefits of their criminal conduct to purchase gold”, said the police.
Lee used the cash in the safe to buy 11kg of gold bars from two jewellery shops in People’s Park Complex.
On Oct 28, 2017, Ng left Singapore for China. Three days later, while Ng was overseas, he called his wife to move the contents of the safe.
On Nov 1, 2017, Lee instructed her brother to move the contents in the safe – about S$6.74 million in cash and 11kg of gold bars – to a different location for “safekeeping”.
Most of the contents were placed in a black duffel bag and a suitcase, except for S$50,000 in cash and four boxes of commemorative coins, which were free gifts from the purchase of the gold bars.
The suitcase and duffel bag were placed at a friend’s residence.
On the same day, Ng asked another member of the syndicate to leave cash that had been handed to him by Vincent Peter in a car boot and to park the car at a secluded place.
He instructed his wife to throw her mobile phone away, knowing that it contained evidence of her dealings. She threw away her phone near Henderson Waves.
Lee was arrested on Nov 2, 2017, while Ng was arrested on Dec 4 that same year, upon his return to Singapore.
In total, the syndicate submitted 8,381 course fee grant applications and 8,391 claims to SSG between April 2017 and October 2017.
These submissions involved 25,141 employees purportedly working for the six dormant applicant entities, who had purportedly attended training courses conducted by the three dormant training providers,” said the police.
“There were no training courses conducted and none of the 25,141 individuals were employees of the applicant entities.”