Man jailed 60 months for money laundering involving more than $4 million

Wan Ting Koh
File photo of Singapore’s currency. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

In one of the largest money laundering court cases heard in Singapore, a man was jailed 60 months on Friday (3 November) for receiving more than $4 million of illegal funds via a company and funnelling a portion of the money out of the country.

Ambrose Dionysius was found guilty on 18 July this year on four counts of abetting his company in receiving stolen property and two counts of receiving the monies in his personal capacity after an eight-day trial in the State Courts. The 60-year-old Singaporean was also convicted on five counts of trafficking the stolen money out of Singapore.

Dionysius was a de facto director of Hayashi Construction and Engineering and a signatory of the company’s Bank of China (BOC) bank account, which received the stolen funds in July 2013. He had supplied bank account details to an individual to allow Hayashi’s account to receive the illegal funds.

On 3 July 2013, employees from the RBC Royal Bank (RBC Bank) in Trinidad and Tobago had received a wire transfer instruction via an email of a person who was purportedly from the National Insurance Property Development Company (Nipdec).

Nipdec has a bank account with RBC Bank. However the bank employees didn’t realise that the request had come from a email with the wrong domain name – Nipderc, instead of Nipdec.

The same request was repeated from the sham email a few days after the first request, resulting in RBC Bank transferring 671,586 euros ($1,095,075) out of Nipdec’s bank account into Hayashi’s Bank of China bank account in Singapore on 8 July 2013. Another sum of money was transferred to Hayashi on 12 July after RBC Bank received a third request.

A total equivalent to $4,417,866 was channelled into Hayashi’s bank account. RBC Bank, which brought a civil claim against Hayashi in the High Court, was able to recover a sum amounting to $3.4 million, leaving it with a net loss of about $1.0 million.

An employee of RBC Bank has since given evidence that the bank had been a victim of a fraud and that it had fully reimbursed Nipdec. A general manager from Nipdec said in an affidavit submitted to the court that Nipdec had never dealt with Hayashi and that it did not have any reason to make payments to Hayashi.

Dionysius said during the trial that he did not expect the remittances and was “shocked” and “afraid” when Hayashi received the monies. Despite his surprise, Dionysius did not inform authorities of the monies.

The prosecution said that Dionysius decided to withdraw the money but he knew moving the entire sum at one go would raise red flags with the bank. As a result, he withdrew $400,000 on 10 July 2013 and trafficked $100,000 out of Singapore that same day. Dionysius made more withdrawals and channelled a sum of money to a Malaysian associate, Wendy Song Li Woon. By 12 July 2013, 90 per cent of the stolen funds had been transferred.

To cover up the remittances to his account, Dionysius prepared a sham “iron ore contract” for BOC Singapore, which supposedly was related to the delivery of iron ore. However, Dionysius admitted while on the stand that the contract was not meant to be carried out and that there was no agreement for Nipdec to purchase any iron ore.

The prosecution called for at least 68 months’ jail for Dionysius, arguing that his offences were carefully planned and that he took active steps to avoid detection, as proven by the fraudulent iron ore contract.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Leong Weng Tat added that a deterrence sentence was needed to protect Singapore’s reputation as a “clean and trusted financial centre”.

The prosecution pointed out that Dionysius was motivated by personal gain as Hayashi was promised 10 per cent commission for allowing its bank account to serve as a conduit for the illicit money, and Dionysius would receive a share of the commission.

In mitigation documents, Dionysius’s lawyer, S Radakrishnan, said that his client suffers from diabetes and colorectal cancer. He said that a long period of incarceration would have a negative impact on Dionysius’s health.

The defence counsel added that Dionysius is the sole breadwinner of his family who had been working as a part-time driver prior to the case. He was suspended from his job by the Land Transport Authority. The lawyer said that the prosecution’s sentence was “too harsh” given that his client had not received any money.

In sentencing Dionysius, District Judge Imran Abdul Hamid said it was fortunate that Dionysius did not profit from the offences.

For dishonestly receiving stolen property, Dionysius could have been jailed up to five years and/or fined. For transferring property believed to be from criminal conduct, Dionysius could have been jailed up to seven years and/or fined a maximum $500,000.