Man cheated 20 victims of $2.5m after promising high monthly returns in investment scam

Shaffiq Alkhatib
The Straits Times
Jan 22, 2024

A man cheated 20 people, including his family friends and acquaintances, of some $2.5 million in total in an investment scam between 2008 and 2013.

Murali Krishnan Naidu had duped them into thinking that their money would be invested in a moneylending business set up by his wife.

Most of the victims had drawn from their retirement savings to fund the “investments”, according to court documents.

The 53-year-old Singaporean, who has made no restitution, was sentenced to seven years and four months’ jail on Jan 22, after he was earlier convicted of 17 counts of cheating linked to nine people.

Another 43 charges, including those involving the remaining victims, were considered during sentencing.

The prosecution said that in August 2006, Murali’s wife incorporated in Singapore a licensed moneylending company known as San Tee Credit (STC).

She was its sole proprietor while he was a manager there.

Before STC was established, Murali worked at another moneylending company known as Diamond Credit from 2003 to 2006.

He was familiar with how such firms raised funds for their moneylending operations.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Jordon Li and Yeow Xuan said Murali knew it was common for moneylending companies to borrow cash from investors through investment agreements.

They would then lend out these monies to their customers.

The firms would pay the investors interest on the sums borrowed, which would typically be lower than the interest which they charge on loans.

One of Murali’s victims was a 69-year-old woman who had entered into six investment agreements totalling $335,000 with STC. She had funded the investments with her life savings.

His other victims included a 49-year-old woman who entered into two investment agreements totalling nearly $120,000 with STC. She funded them by refinancing her home in Malaysia.

The prosecution said Murali had made false representations to the victims by saying their monies would be invested in STC’s moneylending business.

He typically promised the victims returns of between 2.5 per cent and 3 per cent that would be paid out monthly, along with a repayment of their investment capital one year from the date of the investment agreement.

Murali then induced his victims to hand over their money, but completely stopped paying dividends to them in early 2013.

To date, it is unclear how he had utilised the victims’ money, said the prosecutors.

Screenings by the Registry of Moneylenders showed STC had not concluded any moneylending transactions between 2011 and 2013.

The DPPs told the court: “Despite the absence of any business activities undertaken by STC, the accused continued to pay the requisite fees to renew STC’s moneylending licence with the Registry of Moneylenders.

“This fortified the accused’s representations that STC was a legitimate and live moneylending business.”

It is not stated in court documents what happened to STC after 2013.

Court documents also did not disclose how the offences came to light, but Murali was charged in court in 2019.

The DPPs had urged the court to sentence him to at least seven years and 10 months’ jail.

“While the accused has claimed to have made some payments of ‘investment returns’ to the victims, the existence of such payments should be accorded minimal mitigatory weight,” they said.

“The returns were paid so as to lend a veneer of legitimacy to the scheme, and to encourage investors to continue pooling money in the scheme.”

They also said his offences had involved a high degree of premeditation and planning.

For each count of cheating, an offender can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

The Straits Times

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