Money mules in €3.5 million counterfeit notes scam jailed

(PHOTO: Getty Images)

Two foreigners who flew into Singapore to assist in the transfer of $1.5 million in illegally obtained cash were jailed 30 months each at the State Courts on Monday (25 June).

French national Nikolic Dalida, 36, and Dutch citizen Nikolic Predrag, 46, each pleaded guilty to two counts of assisting another to retain the benefits from criminal conduct.

Predrag had been offered a job of being a money mule in Singapore in exchange for 3,000 (S$4,800) along with having his lodgings, food and air ticket paid for. Predrag then roped Dalida in by offering her a share of the commission.

The two are related but no further details of their relationship were revealed in court.

Two other participants – Romanian Iosif Kiss, 40, and Frenchman David Weidmann, 37 – have been charged but not yet sentenced.

According to court documents, Kiss and Weidmann acted as buyer’s representatives in a transaction that involved the purchase of a vessel by a foreign national. The two dealt with Oceanic Group, a company that acts as a middleman for buyers and sellers of non-commercial vessels such as yachts and cruise ships.

As part of the exchange, a deposit fee of €7 million was meant to be paid to Oceanic Group in Paris over two separate transactions, while the buyer’s representatives would simultaneously be paid a commission of $3 million over two transactions in Singapore.

Kiss and Weidmann arrived in Singapore for the purpose of collecting a commission fee on 27 August last year.

In Paris on 2 September last year, Oceanic Group managing director Daniel Chui Mun Yew met an unknown buyer’s representative to collect a 3.5 million deposit for the vessel. He instructed his staff to then release the commission fee of $1.5 million in cash to Kiss and Weidmann in Singapore after he received the deposit.

However, Chui realised five minutes later that the 3.5 million deposit he had received consisted of counterfeit notes. He instructed his staff to recall the $1.5 million but Kiss and Weidmann had fled by then. A police report was subsequently lodged.

On the same day, Weidmann handed a suitcase containing $1,081,200 to Predrag at a male toilet within City Square Mall. Together with Dalida and the suitcase, Predrag then proceeded to the Marina Bay Sands before returning to their room at the Grand Copthorne Hotel, where they transferred the cash to another bag. To avoid being recognised, Predrag also shaved his beard.

Two days later, Dalida received instructions to hand over a sum of $340,000 to a moneychanger, Muhammad Shafee Mohamed Anees, somewhere in the Serangoon area.

After buying a pair of sunglasses to use as a disguise, Dalida handed over the leftover $339,550 to Shafee, who successfully remitted the money. Shafee remains under investigation and has not been charged.

Weidmann and Kiss were arrested at Woodlands Checkpoint on 2 September. Weidmann was found with $209,050 in his underwear while Kiss was found with $205,000 in his underwear.

Dalida and Predrag were arrested on 5 September at their hotel room, where $738,250 was recovered.

The prosecution sought a sentence of three years’ jail each for Dalida and Predrag.

In mitigation, Dalida’s lawyer David Nayar said his client was not the principal party involved in the scam. Nayar said that Dalida was unaware of what was specifically involved and knew only that her task involved ferrying money around.

The amount of money involved took her by surprise, but at that point in time, she did not think she had any other option, said the lawyer. Nayar, who asked for 18 months’ jail, added that Dalida was experiencing a “rough period” in her life given the passing of her father and niece.

Predrag’s lawyer, Randhawa Ravinderpal Singh, said that his client had not claimed trial and had children to support.

For their offences, which constitute breaches of the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act, each accused person could have been jailed up to 10 years, fined $500,000, or both, for each breach.

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