Accountant who embezzled nearly $4 million from SG tech firm gets 9.5 year prison sentence

Ariel Biasong Salamanes, a Philippine national who embezzled almost S$4 million from the company he had been employed at as an accountant, was sentenced yesterday to 9.5 years in prison.

Salamanes, 42, pleaded guilty to 15 charges, including criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts. Most of the money he stole was remitted back home to the Philippines, while some was sent to the United Arab Emirates to pay off existing credit card debts from a period of time he had spent living there.

Formerly an employee of data analytics company QlikTech Singapore, Salamanes was responsible for the company’s bookkeeping, accounts payable, and receivables from 2012 to 2017.

During his employment there, he was given the power to sign checks, on his own, on behalf of the company — for payments as high as $10,000, Channel News Asia reported. From April 2013 to June 2017, he signed a total of 451 checks and deposited the funds straight into his own bank account before sending the money overseas. He then covered up his embezzlement by instructing other employees to make fraudulent entries in the company’s accounting system.

Overall, Salamanes made 835 remittances in 241 days to the Philippines and the UAE, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Cheng Yuxi. Most of the money sent to the Philippines was deposited into bank accounts belonging to Salamanes, his boyfriend, and various family members, but Salamanes reportedly kept approximately $408,000 in Singapore for his own personal use.

According to authorities, the money remitted to the Philippines was used to buy condominium units, as well as put into investments under multi-level marketing schemes and stocks.

Salamanes’ white-collar heist ended when he was caught by the Commercial Affairs Department of the Singapore Police in June 2017. QlikTech also conducted its own internal investigation and reported its erring employee to the police when they discovered his embezzlement scheme.

At his trial, Salamanes tried to persuade the judge to give him a lighter sentence by explaining that a portion of the embezzled money was used to fund the education of 20 Filipino college students, but the judge was having none of that Robin Hood BS. “The point is that the money was not yours to give away, to begin with,” District Judge Ong Luan Tze told him during the sentencing, Today Online reported.

Salamanes’ lawyer Christine Sekhon, as part of his defense, also told the court that her client was suffering from depression that was allegedly triggered by a breakup with a long-time partner during the time period in which he committed the crimes, reported The New Paper.

“My client felt he performed heroic acts helping people through [a] crisis… and rationalized that the company was profitable… He rationalized that other people needed the money more, and derived self-worth from these acts which he now accepts was misguided,” Sekhon said.

Judge Ong said that while she has “some sympathy” for Salamanes’ personal problems, they’re also not “an excuse to go around committing crimes.”

Salamanes has not paid back his former employer, but QlikTech has recovered $3.9 million through fraud insurance.

 

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