Bank worker siphoned $628,000 to pay fake moneylender, 25 times loan amount

·Senior Reporter
·4-min read
A woman with her hands cuffed.
A woman with her hands cuffed. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A bank employee in need of cash to pay off her mounting debt embezzled funds from her company to pay a licensed moneylender who turned out to be a scammer.

Over two months, Nurashikeen Sinin misappropriated cash from her employer P T Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI).

By the time the 37-year-old Singaporean came clean, she had siphoned at least $628,000 — 25 times the loan sum she had originally sought from the fake moneylender.

Nurashikeen was jailed for four years on Wednesday (5 January) after pleading guilty to one count of criminal breach of trust as a servant. A count of falsifying documents was considered for her sentencing.

The Singaporean had joined BNI in 2001 and was promoted to a supervisor at the Limited Purpose Branch (LPB) of BNI by the time of the offences in 2020. She was earning a salary of $4,200.

As part of her job, Nurashikeen counted cash in BNI LPB’s vault at the end of the day, prepared and submitted the cash balance sheet for the day and oversaw the tellers, collecting cash and remittance documents from them.

Nurashikeen was also entrusted with the discretion to decide when to transfer excess cash to the main branch of BNI.

By 2020, Nurashikeen had outstanding debts of over $83,000 consisting of $34,600 from credit cards, $12,400 from licensed moneylenders, and a staff loan from BNI of $36,700.

To pay off her debt, Nurashikeen turned to another moneylender. She found a moneylender’s advertisement online via a URL not knowing that it was a scam.

On 12 October 2020, Nurashikeen contacted the scammer via WhatsApp and was told to pay an administrative fee of $2,500 before the business could disburse a loan of $25,000. Nurashikeen made the payment but did not receive the loan. The next day she was told to pay a collateral fee of $2,500 and then $5,000 in order to secure the loan. She followed instructions but still did not get the loan. That day, under increasing pressure to settle her debts, Nurashikeen began to embezzle funds from LPB.

She pocketed $5,400 in cash and gave most of it to the scammer. From then until 12 November 2020, Nurashikeen was asked to pay more fees and at times given documents purportedly from DBS Bank and the "Internal Security Department", asking for more fees.

Due to her desperation and her belief that the money would be returned to her, Nurashikeen kept transferring funds which she misappropriated from LPB.

She embezzled at least $628,000, in cash, which she deposited into her account before transferring to the scammer. To cover up her misdeed, Nurashikeen forged the opening and ending cash balance of LPB’s daily cash balance sheets, which stated the original sums before she stole the monies.

In total, she transferred $735,000 to the scammer, comprising the money she pocketed from BNI and $97,750 from her own funds. It is uncertain where she produced the leftover sum from. She never received her promised loan.

On 12 November 2020, BNI’s headquarters received a tip-off that Nurashikeen had been behaving unusually. A Head of Customer Service decided to conduct a surprise cash count check at LPB. Nurashikeen messaged this employee to ask to meet the next day, when she confessed to the offences.

Nurashikeen was terminated on 14 November 2020. She lodged a police report against the scammer five days later.

BNI was unable to recover the monies as they had been transferred to unknown accounts. Nurashikeen was unable to return any money as she is an undischarged bankrupt.

When asked by District Judge Marvin Bay how she came to be in debt in the first place, Nurashikeen’s lawyer Suppiah Thangaveloo said, “The tragic story of this is that she never really shared challenges, even with family members. Everything was handled by her, if she spoke to somebody, somebody would have said it was quite a silly thing to do, to borrow money to pay someone.”

The lawyer added said that Nurashikeen’s highest education level is N-Levels.

“She has been working in a bank for a long period of time, so I think she doesn’t have any other exposure. She’s just a very simple person,” he said.

Nurashikeen had been caught in a “vicious cycle”. After finding out they Nurashikeen worked for a bank, the scammer had also threatened to confront her employer.

DJ Bay then asked the lawyer if Nurashikeen if she had asked for loan of $25,000 and ended up paying 25 times the sum, and the lawyer replied “yes”.

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