Accounts clerk who embezzled $46 million in 'landmark' case jailed 18 years

Wan Ting Koh
Richard Tiang Teng Hoong, 69, the accounts clerk of a Double Ace Trading Co, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of criminal breach of trust and five counts of using benefits from criminal conduct. (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

In a “landmark” case, a man who misappropriated $46 million from several companies over seven years was jailed 18 years by the State Courts on Thursday (7 February).

Richard Tiang Teng Hoong, 69, the accounts clerk of a Double Ace Trading Co, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of criminal breach of trust and five counts of using benefits from criminal conduct.

Another 54 charges of a similar nature were taken into consideration for his sentencing.

Accused was a trusted employee

Tiang joined Double Ace Trading Co around 1990 and assisted its directors in managing the bank accounts and financial affairs of offshore companies Esben Finance Ltd, Lismore Trading Co Ltd, Incredible Power Ltd and Rayley Co Ltd.

The four firms were in the timber trading business and had no employees of their own.

By 2007, Double Ace’s three authorised signatories trusted Tiang and would sign off on the cheques and telegraphic transfer forms prepared by him.

As part of his deception, Tiang would prepare false payment vouchers before writing cheques or telegraphic transfer forms for amounts stated in the payment vouchers. He left the payee information blank. 

He would then hand the necessary documents to the authorised signatories for them to sign on. After obtaining the necessary signatures, Tiang would add his own name and personal bank account details as the payee.

Tiang would also make the cheques payable by cash and and would personally cash them in.

Through these methods, Tiang misappropriated a total of $46,228,437.38 over 300 occasions between 15 January 2007 and 26 March 2014.

Placed weekly bets of over $100,000

Tiang used most of the money he embezzled to gamble, often placing weekly bets of more than $100,000 with Singapore Pools. He also visited the casino at Resorts World Singapore three times a week, spending about $20,000 on each visit.

Between 18 January 2011 and 25 February 2013, Tiang issued eight cash cheques totalling $380,000 to place 4D and TOTO bets with Singapore Pools. He also spent $580,300 at the casino on 12 occasions between 21 July 2012 and 20 November 2013.

His deeds came to light only on 6 June 2014, when the Commercial Affairs Department received information that Tiang had misappropriated money from the four offshore companies.

Tiang later made restitution by surrendering proceeds obtained by selling his car, his shareholdings and 50 per cent of his stake in a condominium unit at The Estuary to the joint-owner. His cash, funds in three bank accounts and a gold bar were also seized.

In total, $2,926,687.11 was obtained as restitution.

CBT of the ‘highest order’: DPP

Noting that few past cases came close to the “massive amount” Tiang had misappropriated, the prosecution called for Tiang to be jailed 18 years.

“This is a textbook case of criminal breach of trust of the highest order, which has resulted in one of the highest monetary losses in Singapore’s history of financial crime,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Lim.

Tiang treated the firms’ bank accounts as his “personal piggy bank” to take from as and when he wanted, said the DPP.

Tiang’s lawyer, Paul Loy, asked for a 14-year jail term for his client, which he described as an “appropriate, sufficient, substantial and lengthy” sentence.

The lawyer cited Tiang’s age as a mitigating factor and urged the court to impose a sentence that will give Tiang a “chance of leaving prison on his own two feet”.

The lawyer added that Tiang had continued to work at his company until last week, as his employer had forgiven him.

Tiang had been “lured by the prospect of easy money” and was “deeply remorseful”, said the lawyer, adding that Tiang had “confessed fully and openly” from the beginning of investigations.

‘Landmark case’: District Judge

Calling it a “landmark case”, District Judge Mathew Joseph said it was astonishing that Tiang’s crimes involved “one man acting alone” who managed to carry out such a “colossal” misappropriation.

He also noted that of the “enormous sum” misappropriated, only 6.3 per cent of it was recovered.

Given the scale of the crimes committed, the judge said he could not have Tiang “serve a token imprisonment term and then… be released to live and enjoy a rich lifestyle happily ever after”.

“This would be unconscionable in the eyes of any society that values thrift and hard work as the proper and right way to reap success,” he added.

“To your credit you pleaded guilty… I hope that you can somehow find peace… and that you will learn from what happened,” the judge told Tiang.

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