SINGAPORE: A director of a consultancy business misappropriated a sum of S$1.5 million (US$1.1 million) a woman had forked out as a deposit for a loan of S$15 million she intended to get for her real estate business.
The director kept S$250,000 for himself and gave the rest to the purported financier, who had actually been declared bankrupt in two countries.
Vincent Jason Sadok Fook Tai, 43, was sentenced to three years and nine months’ jail on Thursday (Aug 17).
He pleaded guilty to one count of criminal breach of trust by dishonestly misappropriating S$1.5 million, with another two charges taken into consideration.
The court heard that Vincent was a director of AEC Development, a consultancy business for funding and financing of projects, and Asia Alternative Fund, a restricted scheme fund.
WONG APPROACHES HIM FOR LOAN
Around May 2020, Vincent was introduced to Wong Poh Kun, now 69. Wong was looking for a loan of at least S$150,000 for personal reasons, and Vincent heard that Wong needed the loan as an interim measure.
Wong later asked Vincent for a loan of S$1 million.
In December 2020, Vincent’s company AEC entered into a loan agreement with a group of real estate companies including Abiel Holdings, whose director was 48-year-old Maureen Li Ee Ling.
AEC was to disburse a loan of S$15 million to Abiel Holdings, in return for preferential shares of Abiel Holdings. The loan was for the development of a commercial site in Aljunied.
At the time of the signing of the agreement, Vincent’s company did not have the funds available to be disbursed, and the loan was purportedly to be financed by a funder based in Hong Kong.
Vincent later shared with Wong that his company had entered into an agreement over this project. Wong asked to be linked up with Ms Li, with Wong possibly financing a loan to the Abiel companies with a deposit of S$1.5 million with Vincent’s AAF company as proof of fund.
Vincent was promised S$500,000 if he could secure S$1 million for Wong from Ms Li, and he agreed.
He introduced Wong to Ms Li as a potential investor who could provide the funds required under the agreement.
At a physical meeting of the trio on Feb 25, 2021, Wong lied to Vincent and Ms Li that he was a wealthy businessman who was a seasoned property developer and financier of projects in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.
He also claimed that he had sources of funding from a pool of Australian investors.
However, in reality, Wong had been declared bankrupt in Malaysia since October 2019, and was declared bankrupt in Singapore in June 2020. Vincent knew about Wong’s bankruptcy status in Singapore in December 2020, but did not know that he was also bankrupt in Malaysia.
At the meeting, Wong allegedly claimed that the Abiel companies had to provide S$1.5 million as proof of funds before he could organise his funds to arrive from Australia.
The money was to be transferred to Vincent’s company, AAF, and held for three months. Ms Li was assured that the S$1.5 million would be kept in the account of AAF, and not utilised or withdrawn.
Ms Li expressed concerns, but Vincent assured her that AAF was a regulated fund by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and that her funds were protected.
Ms Li agreed to the terms and delivered a cheque of S$1.5 million to AAF.
Vincent withdrew the entire sum and handed over S$1.25 million to Wong in cash and bank transfers. He kept S$250,000 for himself, claiming to have used it to upgrade his office.
In May 2021, when Ms Li was chasing him and questioning the delay in the disbursement of the loan, Vincent forged a bank statement purporting that his company had received a transfer of S$15 million, to deceive MS Li into believing that the loan quantum from Wong had been received.
Vincent also forged a letter from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore purporting that his company had outstanding overdue corporate tax, so Ms Li would believe the bank account had been frozen because of this.
The finance director of one of Ms Li’s companies lodged a police report in July 2021 over the S$15 million loan that did not materialise.
Vincent made restitution of S$1,000 to the victim in January last year, while Wong has not made any restitution.
The prosecution sought a jail term of between four and four-and-a-half years for Vincent, pointing to how he had abused the trust that commercial transactions operate on.
He had dishonestly misappropriated the sum transferred to his company, which he had specifically assured would be protected.
Wong’s case is pending. When he was charged in January last year, he had claimed that he was a respectable businessman who had completed multimillion-dollar development projects. He asked why he would cheat someone “for a small sum of S$1.5 million”, saying “it doesn’t make sense at all”.