Two foreigners who acted as money mules in a scam involving €3.5 million ($5,476,755) in fake notes were each jailed 44 months on Monday (20 August).
French David Weidmann, 37, and Romanian Iosif Kiss, 40, had both collected $1.5 million in commissions from the staff of Oceanic Group, a company that sells non-commercial vessels, for a vessel deal even though their partners in the scam had given Oceanic fake notes as a deposit payment.
Both men were each earlier convicted of three counts of abetting another to retain benefits from criminal conduct.
According to court documents, Kiss and Weidmann acted as the buyer’s representatives for the deal. Each was offered the job of collecting the money in Singapore in exchange for a commission of $5,000 in August last year.
The plan was put into action on 26 August last year when Kiss and Weidmann met in Paris with their ’employer’, a man known as “Boris”, who bought them a return air ticket from a travel agency. They flew to Singapore the next day after meeting with “Boris”, who also paid them €2,000 to cover their expenses in Singapore.
As part of the deal, a deposit fee of €7 million was meant to be paid to Oceanic in Paris over two separate transactions, while Oceanic would pay the buyer’s representatives a commission of $3 million over two transactions in Singapore.
On 2 September last year, Oceanic managing director Daniel Chui Mun Yew met an unknown buyer’s representative to collect a €3.5 million deposit for the vessel in Paris. He instructed his staff to then release the commission fee of $1.5 million in cash to Kiss and Weidmann in Singapore after he received the deposit.
Kiss and Weidmann immediately left without counting the cash. They acted with haste as they were suspicious of the circumstances surrounding the deal, according to the prosecution.
However, Chui realised five minutes later that the €3.5 million deposit he had received were fake notes. He instructed his staff to recall the $1.5 million cash but Kiss and Weidmann had fled by then. A police report was lodged afterwards.
Kiss and Weidmann were then instructed by Boris to each bring a part of the money to Malaysia and hand over the leftover sum in Singapore to an accomplice, later identified as Dutch citizen Predrag Nikolic. They handed $1,081,200 to Predrag in City Square Mall.
Later that day, the two headed to Malaysia via a coach. Kiss and Weidmann hid $205,000 and $209,050, respectively, in their underwear. Both were arrested at Woodlands Checkpoint and the money was recovered.
A sum of $738,250 was recovered from Predrag’s hotel room on 5 September last year.
Predrag, and another accomplice involved in laundering the money, French citizen Nikolic Dalida, had previously been jailed for 30 months each for their roles in the affair.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Ben Mathias Tan sought a sentence of 4 and a half years’ jail for Kiss and Weidmann.
Each man was motivated by financial gain and had come to Singapore for the purpose of committing a crime involving a high amount, added the DPP.
Kalidass Murugaiyan, the lawyer representing the men, sought to argue that his clients had not come to Singapore with the intention of committing the offences. Instead, they were suspicious of the circumstances surrounding the commission that they had collected, he added.
For their offences, each men could have been jailed up to 10 years and/or fined a maximum $500,000 on each count.