Prosecution seeks 30 years' jail for accountant who siphoned $40M, gambled it away

File photo of Singapore Supreme Court

SINGAPORE — The prosecution is seeking 30 years’ jail for an accountant who embezzled more than $40 million from 23 companies.

Ewe Pang Kooi, a 66-year-old permanent resident from Malaysia, took the money from 21 companies undergoing liquidation, and two companies which he was managing the finances for.

Ewe’s lawyer, Senior Counsel Michael Khoo, called the sentence proposed by the prosecution “crushing” and “manifestly excessive” during Ewe’s sentencing hearing on Tuesday (28 May). Khoo pushed for a sentence of 12 to 18 years’ jail.

Ewe had previously been convicted of 50 counts of criminal breach of trust as an agent following a trial.

According to court documents, Ewe was given control of the funds while he was handling the affairs of the companies being liquidated. Instead of using these funds legitimately, Ewe siphoned the funds to gamble for over 10 years, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Hon Yi.

Between 2002 and 2012, Ewe shifted funds between 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 while only $16.5 million was recovered.

Led ‘high life’ as serial gambler

During the sentencing hearing, the prosecution revealed that Ewe was a compulsive gambler who led the “high life” and placed high-stake bets with his ill-gotten gains during his visits to casinos. He got no “kick” by just gambling a few thousand dollars per bet. Instead, he would place a single bet of $150,000 with his ill-gotten gains usually, the prosecution said.

Ewe’s bets were so large that he accumulated enough points to stay in a designated hotel room at the Resorts World Sentosa casino for free on his visits just months after he began gambling there.

Khoo told the court that Ewe developed a gambling addiction disorder stemming from an exposure to gambling while he was young.

While growing up in Malaysia, Ewe saw his father run an illegal gambling operation. When he was around seven years old, he helped his father by collecting betting slips from gamblers.

Ewe worked as a dealer with Genting Highlands Resort while waiting to be admitted into his accountancy course in Newcastle, the UK. He continued working as a dealer to support his university studies.

Though Ewe had a stable career as an auditor and was an owner of his own accountancy firm, he still indulged in gambling in cruise ships in the early days of his career, according to Khoo.

When his gambling losses mounted, Ewe sold his apartment and later misappropriated the monies entrusted to him as a professional liquidator and court- appointed receiver.

“It appears his gambling addiction...took a life of its own and clouded his judgement, and that he did not see a way out but to indulge in gambling to stay afloat,” Khoo read from Ewe’s psychiatric report.

Ewe ended up incurring heavy debts with 11 banks and three casinos, and was later banned from entering the casinos in Singapore in 2012. He was declared a bankrupt on 28 March 2013.

DPP Hon Yi argued, however, that Ewe’s psychiatric report did not link his offences to his pathological gambling. Ewe had misused his clients’ money for gambling instead of choosing to gamble within his means or borrow from others, the DPP added.

Ewe is scheduled to be sentenced in July.

Other Singapore stories

High Court overturns doctor's conviction over insufficient medical leave given to worker

M1 replaces all mobile offerings with single base plan

Construction company charged for operating drone without a license