SINGAPORE — A 61-year-old man who had his suspicions about the authenticity of a $10,000 Singapore note after two Indonesians passed it to him still went ahead and passed it to a bank staff in the hopes of getting a $1,000 cut, a court heard.
At the State Courts on Thursday (5 March), Saw Eng Kiat was jailed for four years and two months.
The Singaporean, who worked as a security officer with Marina Bay Sands, pleaded guilty to one charge of using a counterfeit currency note.
Rebuffed by antique shops
In October last year, an Indonesian woman named Yolanda, 46, contacted Saw and told him that her friend Jusuf Nababan, 48, had a $10,000 note and needed help to change it to smaller denominations as he could not change the large amount in Indonesia.
Yolanda told Saw that Jusuf had promised to give them each a $1,000 commission. Saw agreed to help.
On 11 October last year, Saw met Yolanda and Jusuf at a coffee shop at People’s Park Centre, where Jusuf handed Saw the counterfeit note.
“Jusuf told the accused that if anyone were to ask about the note, the accused was to say that his late father had left it behind,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor Jotham Tay.
Saw took a photo of the fake note on his handphone and went to two antique shops at Chinatown Point and People’s Park Centre to enquire about it while the Indonesian accomplices waited at the coffee shop.
However, staff at both shops told Saw that the note had no value.
Undeterred, Saw suggested to the Indonesian duo that they try changing the note at a bank.
Went to DBS Bank branch
The trio then took a taxi to HarbourFront Centre. Saw went into a DBS Bank branch while Yolanda and Jusuf waited at a seating area outside the bank.
Saw handed the counterfeit note to a bank teller and she deposited it into his bank account. Thereafter, the culprit withdrew $5,000 in cash. He then left the branch and went to a nearby ATM machine to withdraw another $2,000.
The Singaporean then met up with the Indonesian duo and handed the $7,000 to Jusuf. Pleased with the successful exchange, Jusuf decided to give Saw another $500 on top of his originally-promised commission of S$1,000.
Saw then did a bank transfer of $1,500 to Yolanda - for her commission and the outstanding balance of $500 for Jusuf.
Saw used the $1,500 he got to pay his bills.
One week later, on 17 October, a compliance officer with DBS Bank made a police report in relation to the fake note.
Culprit had his doubts
DPP Tay said Saw had his suspicions about the authenticity of the note. “He had even expressed to Yolanda that he was doubtful that anyone would pay a commission for the exchange of a genuine note. He also found it suspicious that Jusuf handed a huge amount of money to him and trusted him to deal with it although they had only met once, and this led him to think that it could have been a counterfeit note.
“In addition, he sensed that something was amiss when Jusuf instructed him to lie by saying that the note had been left behind by his late father. He also admitted that while at the DBS bank waiting for his queue number to be called, he was nervous and afraid because he had no confidence in the note’s authenticity,” added DPP Tay.
But Saw went ahead because he wanted the promised commission, said the prosecutor, who asked for four-and-a-half years’ jail in line with previous cases.
In mitigation, Saw said he was recently divorced and had debts.
District Judge Marvin Bay said he was satisfied that Saw “had ample reason to believe, and did believe the note to be fraudulent”. But the judge noted that the culprit “was induced into the scheme” by Yolanda and Jusuf “who may well have been working for a syndicate”.
“Mr Saw appears to have tried to exchange the note with the antique dealers in good faith. The dealers had been explicit in communicating to him that the note was worthless,” said the judge.
“The offence was committed when he persisted to tender the note at DBS HarbourFront, despite these adverse evaluations from the antique dealers, and his realisation by then that the note was counterfeit,” he added.
The judge also noted the prosecution’s submissions on the seriousness of the offence and that if counterfeit notes are allowed to rampantly circulate, confidence in a country’s currency can be undermined.
For his crime, Saw could have been jailed up to 20 years and also fined.
Yolanda and Jusuf’s cases are pending.
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