Cambodian national Su Wenqiang, who was sentenced to 13 months in prison, agreed to forfeit more than S$5.9 million in seized assets to the state.

SINGAPORE: The first suspect to plead guilty in Singapore’s largest money laundering case was convicted and sentenced to 13 months’ jail in a district court on Tuesday (Apr 2).

Su Wenqiang, 32, admitted to 11 charges of money laundering, possessing proceeds from illegal remote gambling offences and lying to get work passes for himself and his wife.

More than S$3 billion (US$2.2 billion) in assets have been seized or frozen in relation to the case. This likely makes it one of the largest money laundering operations in the world.

Su was among 10 suspects arrested in simultaneous police raids last August. The Cambodian national, whose passport states that he is from Fujian, was nabbed in a Good Class Bungalow along Lewis Road in Bukit Timah.

Authorities have seized more than S$5.9 million from Su in the form of cash, vehicles, luxury items and liquor. Su has forfeited this sum to the state.

On Monday, he appeared in court via a video-link and pleaded guilty to having S$601,706 that represented in whole his benefits from illegal remote gambling offences.

Details of the illegal remote gambling business that is at the heart of this case emerged in court, along with Su’s involvement.

Su was living in Manila in 2019 when he engaged in online gambling. He got to know an individual named in court documents only as «A».

This person, A, was involved in providing remote gambling services to people living in China. This operation was based in the Philippines and involved a website that people in China could access through their phones to place bets.

This is illegal in China, the prosecutors noted.

Su became involved in this operation and managed the staff who maintained one of the business’ illegal gambling websites.

Through these actions, Su facilitated punters’ participation in remote gambling through a service that was unlicensed and unlawful in China, said prosecutors.

He also conducted a betting operation by managing the accepting of bets by remote communication. This operation was unlicensed in Singapore.

If Su’s conduct had occurred in Singapore, it would therefore have constituted an offence, the prosecution noted.

Su was entitled to a share of the criminal proceeds generated by the illegal remote gambling business, earning a cut of the profits each month.

He also came to learn that the person in charge of the operation was an unknown individual from Taiwan, prosecutors said.

In 2021, Su moved to Singapore as his wife wanted their children to study here. He continued to be involved in the gambling business, and regularly flew to the Philippines for work.

In June 2023, Su contacted another individual named in court documents as «B», who managed finances for the illegal remote gambling business. Both were living in Singapore.

Su asked B for his share of the proceeds from the business, and B offered to pay him S$1 million.

On Jun 23, 2023, Su went to B’s house and received about S$1 million in cash, which were criminal proceeds from providing illegal remote gambling services.

He put this cash into two suitcases and brought them to his house, where he transferred the money to a safe.

During the police raid on Aug 15, 2023, a sum of S$601,706 was seized from the safe in Su’s house. This represented the balance of the S$1 million in cash that he had collected from B, said the prosecutor.

Su also pleaded guilty to using about S$500,000 in illegal proceeds to buy a Mercedes Benz AMG C63S in January 2022.

In September 2021, a sum of close to S$5 million was transferred to Su’s Citibank account. This was his share of criminal proceeds from the revenue of the illegal gambling business.

On Jan 28, 2022, he withdrew S$502,431 from the account and used it to buy the Mercedes Benz, which therefore represented in whole his benefits from the illegal remote gambling service.

Su’s remaining nine charges were taken into consideration. These are for:

  • Laundering about S$477,000 in illicit proceeds from a Philippine-based illegal remote gambling service by buying luxury bags, jewellery, liquor and paying for rent of luxury houses and condominium units
  • Lying in an application for an employment pass in February 2022 that he would be employed as a sales director by Fleur Business Service
  • Conspiring with another person to obtain a work pass for his wife, Su Yanping
  • Having a forged marriage certificate falsely stating that he registered his marriage with Su Yanping in May 2018

Deputy Public Prosecutors Edwin Soh, Sarah Thaker and Grace Teo sought a sentence of 12 to 15 months in jail.

Mr Soh said that a suitably harsh sentence must be given to deter other like-minded people who think of using Singapore as a hub to launder funds.

He highlighted Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo’s statement in parliament, in which she said that criminals will try to exploit Singapore’s economic openness and strong reputation for the rule of law to launder money and create the appearance of legitimacy.

It was therefore vital for Singapore’s reputation as a legitimate financial hub that money laundering offences be punished, he said.

The prosecution also pointed to the involvement of a transnational syndicate, the substantial amount of money involved and the long period of Su’s offending as aggravating factors.

Su’s defence lawyers Mr Manoj Nandwani and Mr Sameer Melber from Gabriel Law Corporation sought a maximum of 11 months’ jail.

Mr Nandwani asked the court to take into consideration that Su accepted the forfeiture of all the assets, which he said would be «devastating» as it «leaves him with nothing».

He also argued that while Su’s conduct was criminal, his acts did not target any customer base in Singapore and did not have any impact on Singapore’s society.

Mr Soh disagreed with this, saying that there was public interest at stake to protect Singapore’s reputation as a legitimate financial hub.

In sentencing, Senior District Judge Ong Hian Sun said he agreed with the prosecution that general deterrence against money laundering should be the dominant consideration in this case.

Mr Nandwani also said his client requested three weeks in Singapore to settle his affairs after his release from jail. Judge Ong replied that this was not a matter for the courts to decide.

Two other suspects have indicated they will also plead guilty. They are Su Haijin, whose hearing is on Thursday, and Wang Baosen, who will appear in court on Apr 16.

Checks of court records showed that the cases of the remaining seven accused are in the pre-trial conference stages. All have been remanded as they were denied bail.

The police are also looking for two more suspects – Cambodian nationals Su Yongcan and Wang Huoqiang – who left Singapore before the raids.

The penalties for possessing property representing benefits from criminal conduct, or converting such benefits, are up to 10 years in jail, a fine of up to S$500,000, or both.

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