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The Straits Times
Oct 6, 2021
A secretary in a law firm opened multiple bank accounts in Singapore after befriending a man online and the accounts later were used to receive more than $1 million in proceeds from criminal activities.
Annee Foong, 48, continued to help her friend this way even when police repeatedly told her to stop and that she was the subject of an investigation.
The Singaporean woman pleaded guilty on Wednesday (Oct 6) to seven counts of allowing bank accounts belonging to her and her daughter to receive nearly $690,000 in ill-gotten gains.
The court will consider 38 other charges linked to the remaining amount during sentencing.
She also admitted that she had in October 2016 carried out of Singapore cash totalling $105,500 on one occasion and $76,500 on another before giving the money to the online friend's secretary in Johor Baru.
They are unlawful acts as the prescribed limit for carrying cash out of Singapore under the law is $20,000.
Foong got to know a "Steve Williams" in July 2016 via social networking platform Badoo.
Claiming to be an engineer, he gave her a British mobile phone number and the pair started communicating regularly.
Soon after, Williams asked Foong for her bank account numbers.
He later transferred an unstated amount into the accounts and asked Foong to remit the monies to his secretary, a woman called "Tina Razak".
Deputy Public Prosecutor Eric Hu said: "He also instructed her to use the remaining monies to open several bank accounts for him and deposit the monies in various bank accounts.
"The accused also allowed Steve access to her passwords for the newly opened bank accounts."
Police learnt that multiple victims were duped in late 2016 into transferring cash totalling more than $240,000 into Foong's bank accounts.
Between Sept 8 and Nov 18 that year, several investigation officers from the Singapore Police Force spoke to Foong.
They told her she was under investigation as her bank accounts had been used to receive monies from victims of cheating.
Officers told her on five occasions to refrain from carrying out Williams' instructions and stop opening bank accounts for him.
Foong persisted, opening yet another bank account for Williams on Oct 11, 2016.
But she later grew wary of his intentions.
In December that year, Foong changed the passwords to six of her Internet banking accounts to prevent him from accessing them to make transfers.
Around Jan 13, 2017, she agreed to help Williams again and received US$315,000 (S$445,500) in one of her bank accounts.
Five days later, Singapore's Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) received a call from the chief executive officer of Capital Bank in Botswana.
The CEO said his bank's system had been hacked by unknown persons and that a sum of money had been transferred into Foong's account.
By then, she had managed to transfer around $12,000 of the amount out of the account but was unable to withdraw the remaining sum of about $434,000.
This was because bank staff managed to identify the suspicious transaction and blocked it. The CAD later seized the remaining amount from the account.
Foong is expected to be sentenced next month.