Accountant jailed 25 years, 10 months for embezzling $40.8M to gamble for over a decade

FILE PHOTO: Getty Images

SINGAPORE — An accountant who embezzled $40.8 million from companies to gamble for over a decade was sentenced to 25 years and 10 months’ jail on Tuesday (16 July).

Ewe Pang Kooi, a 66-year-old permanent resident from Malaysia, had previously been convicted of 50 counts of criminal breach of trust as an agent following a trial.

Ewe, who is the managing partner of Ewe, Loke & Partners and the director of E&M Management Consultants, took the money from 21 companies undergoing liquidation, as well as two companies which he was managing the finances for.

Instead of using these funds legitimately, he siphoned the funds to gamble for over 10 years. Between 2002 and 2012, he shifted funds among the companies to cover up his misdeeds.

When the affected companies chased him about the liquidated assets, Ewe admitted that he had misappropriated the funds. The companies lost a total of $40.8 million, with only $16.5 million being recovered.

Spared a life sentence due to his age

Delivering his sentencing remarks, Justice Chan Seng Onn drew on graphs to show similar previous cases of criminal breach of trust and their corresponding jail sentences.

Noting Ewe’s age, he said the court ought not to impose a sentence that amounts to a life sentence.

“With remission, (Ewe) may have the chance of being released before his passing. It is hoped that he will use this lifeline wisely, and use whatever time he has remaining (whether in prison or otherwise) to strive to make amends and reflect on the extreme gravity of his wrongdoing,” he said.

Justice Chan also noted that Ewe had carefully planned the offences and took steps to avoid detection for a decade.

The offences also adversely impact the integrity of the local economic infrastructure, and constitute one of the most severe forms of abuse of authority, said the judge.

“The role of a liquidator in our corporate and financial system is vital, and great trust is placed on them to carry out their functions honestly and fairly, as seen by the provision that liquidators take over all the assets and liabilities of a company during the winding-up process,” he said

Gambled away the funds in high stakes

Ewe's lawyer Michael Khoo told the court previously that Ewe developed a gambling addiction disorder stemming from an exposure to gambling while he was young. He had helped his father run an illegal gambling operation in Malaysia while growing up.

A compulsive gambler, Ewe visited casinos and often placed high stakes bets of up to $150,000 each time.

His bets were so large that he accumulated enough points to stay in a permanent hotel room and eat for free at Resorts World Sentosa.

Despite having an annual income of $500,000 to $600,000, Ewe had no savings and even had a negative balance of $745,000 with Marina Bay Sands, Resorts World Sentosa and Genting Malaysia.

He was later banned from entering casinos in Singapore in 2012, and declared a bankrupt on 28 March 2013.

In response to Khoo’s point, Justice Chan said he did not find Ewe’s gambling disorder to be a mitigating factor, noting that Ewe was still driven by personal greed and the need to fuel his gambling habit.

Appealing conviction

During Ewe’s sentencing hearing, the prosecution had sought 30 years’ jail, while Khoo asked for a sentenced between 12 and 18 years.

Ewe will be appealing his conviction on the grounds that his offences should be considered under lesser charge of criminal breach of trust, rather than criminal breach of trust as an agent. He will also be appealing his sentence.

He also has a remaining 643 charges that have not been dealt with. These include for forgery, cheating, making false declarations to public officers, transferring and using benefits of criminal conduct. The pending charges will be sent back to a pre-trial conference.

Khoo had sought a stay of execution for his client, whom he said had ripped off his toenail in an accident. He added that, as his client is diabetic, his wound will have to be monitored.

However Justice Chan rejected the application, saying that the prisons could adequately take care of his condition. Ewe will start serving his sentence with immediate effect.

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