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HomesingaporeCar dealer used almost S$264,000 in customers' down payments to invest in...

Car dealer used almost S$264,000 in customers' down payments to invest in China, gets jail

SINGAPORE: A bankrupt man who managed a car dealership registered under his partner’s name pocketed almost S$264,000 (US$193,000) in down payments from six customers and used it for an investment in China.

The customers later made police reports saying that the cars they had recently purchased from the car dealer had gone missing and were later repossessed.

Wong Sang Keng, 75, was sentenced to 14 months’ jail on Friday (Oct 27).

He pleaded guilty to one count of criminal breach of trust. Another charge of taking part directly in the management of a business when he was an undischarged bankrupt was taken into consideration.

The court heard that Wong had been bankrupt since 1983. He was discharged from bankruptcy in 2017, according to the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

He engaged another man to register Prince Auto, a car dealership along Commonwealth Lane, as a sole proprietorship as he could not do so himself due to his bankrupt status.

Wong managed the operations of Prince Auto while the other man dealt with administrative work. Wong promised him S$2,000 a month with commission whenever a deal was successful.

Prince Auto was set up in 2008 and Wong managed the business. He sold six victims – aged between 49 and 68 – a secondhand car each, collecting down payments from them so he could discharge the outstanding loans on the vehicles.

The vehicle ownership of each car would then be transferred from the finance company to each victim.

As part of this, Wong was entrusted with S$263,921 in total from the six men between April and August in 2015.

However, he pocketed the money by spending it on a wine investment opportunity in China, and other purposes.

He claimed to have come across the investment opportunity in October 2014 and invested over S$280,000 by February 2015.

He told investigators that he used Prince Auto’s customers’ down payments for these investments. After that, he began “rolling” the money he collected from subsequent customers to make further investments or towards transferring vehicle ownership for earlier customers.

Wong left Singapore briefly on Aug 31, 2015, and the victims filed police reports. Because he had not used the down payments to discharge the outstanding loans for the vehicles, the cars were not transferred to the victims.

Instead, all six vehicles were repossessed by the finance company around September 2015, and Wong did not answer any of the victims’ calls.

He was arrested after returning to Singapore in October 2015, and has not made any restitution.


Defence lawyer Wee Hong Shern in his mitigation plea gave the background of his client.

He said Wong was a captain in the Singapore Armed Forces for a decade before venturing into sales, where he found himself very successful selling cars.

However, due to debt and legal problems, he became bankrupt.

“Due to his experience and expertise and clientele however, he was still heavily sought after by car dealers and companies,” Mr Wee said. 

This led him to have an arrangement with Prince Auto as their operations manager, and he made sure he did not have any ownership in Prince Auto as he was a bankrupt and did not want to run afoul of the law.

Mr Wee said his client was doing a wine export business for China at the time of the offence.

However, he made a mistake in using the payments he received from customers towards his investment in China, making large purchases of more than S$200,000 worth of wine to be exported to the country.

Wong was later told that the entire shipment had been seized by China’s customs authority and would be confiscated.

This was why Wong left Singapore, to meet his partner and attempt to explain the “mistake” to Chinese authorities, leaving his car business unattended, said Mr Wee. Wong was ultimately unable to convince Chinese authorities to release the wine.

Mr Wee said his client is old and performs the role of primary caregiver to his elderly wife, whose health has taken a turn for the worse.

“He wishes to serve his sentence and be reunited with her as quickly as possible to ensure that he is physically present to care for her,” said the lawyer.Editor’s note: This article has been updated after AGC clarified that the accused was discharged from bankruptcy in 2017.

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