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HomesingaporeBillion-dollar money laundering case: How a man wanted in China came to...

Billion-dollar money laundering case: How a man wanted in China came to be in 'safer' Singapore

SINGAPORE: A man accused of laundering illegal online gambling proceeds from a Philippines-based operation aimed at Chinese punters was allegedly roped into the syndicate as early as 2012, an investigating officer has revealed.

Wang Dehai, a 34-year-old man listed as a Cypriot and holding passports from Vanuatu, Cyprus, Cambodia and China, came to know in 2016 that he was wanted by Chinese authorities.

Worried about this, he listened to his brother-in-law, who asked him to relocate to Singapore where it would be “safer” for him.

Wang is one of 10 foreigners charged in a wider money laundering probe involving over S$2.8 billion worth of assets.

The new information on Wang came from affidavits by Assistant Superintendent Lim Yong Khiang, the investigation officer (IO) in charge of his case, as well as submissions from the prosecution in objection to bail for him.

Wang’s lawyer, Ms Megan Chia from Tan Rajah & Cheah, had argued extensively for bail for her client earlier on Wednesday (Oct 18).

THE IO’S INVESTIGATIONS

According to ASP Lim, Wang first joined the Philippines-based remote gambling business in 2012 as a customer service employee, before becoming a promoter posting advertisements online.

The syndicate was the primary source of income for Wang, who has been remanded since Aug 16.

It continues to operate in the Philippines and is still generating proceeds.

ASP Lim cited a wanted notice which stated that Chinese police in regions like Jiangsu, Liaoning, Yunnan and Shandong were investigating cases of “cross-border online gambling”. 

The notice stated that the Chinese police have “significant suspicions” of Wang Dehai being involved, and that Wang was “currently on the run”.

In Wang’s statement to the Singapore police, he admitted that he knew he was wanted by Chinese police in October 2016.

He worried about returning to China, and it was his brother-in-law Su Yongcan who asked him to relocate to Singapore because it would be “safer” for him, among other things, said ASP Lim.

Wang’s lawyer argued that his principal motive in moving to Singapore was not to evade the police, and that he had committed to settling to Singapore with his three children, wife and in-laws for about five years.

ASP Lim disagreed that Wang intended to stay in Singapore for the long term, no matter the circumstances.

“Instead, I believe the accused is an international fugitive with no qualms with uprooting his family to evade the law,” he said.

ASP Lim also pointed to Wang having substantial wealth overseas, including two houses in Xiamen worth about S$1.06 million, a S$2.9 million house in Cyprus, and about S$10.5 million in two bank accounts in Hong Kong.

Wang is linked to four other alleged accomplices who are wanted by Singapore police, two of whom are believed to be also wanted by the Chinese police for illegal online gambling operations since 2017.

Two of the four are also relatives of Wang, who can help him abscond, said ASP Lim.

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“SUBSTANTIAL WEALTH”

Wang faces two charges in Singapore. The first is for laundering money by using the illegal proceeds from the gambling service in the Philippines to buy a condominium unit in The Marq at 8 Paterson Hill in November 2019.

According to the prosecution, Wang claimed that the S$23 million he used to pay for the condo unit was funded through proceeds of real estate investments in Dubai.

The prosecution said Wang’s explanation was “unbelievable” and paired with inconsistent accounts.

Initially, Wang said he funded it through earnings from his online gambling business or investments in stocks in Hong Kong. In a later statement, he said it was through the earnings from condominium sales in Dubai, but gave no documentary proof.

In another statement, he claimed he borrowed HK$60 million, or about S$10.3 million, from his brother-in-law Su in September 2018 to buy The Marq unit.

Wang’s second charge is for possessing S$2.3 million in Singapore in August this year, which represents what he earned from the illegal remote gambling offences.

He claimed Su had passed him the S$2.3 million, after liquidating some of his cryptocurrency holdings.

The prosecution similarly rejected this explanation and cited Wang’s shifting accounts, which began with him claiming he had sold off his own cryptocurrency holdings in Singapore for about S$2 million.

In later statements, he claimed the cash belonged to Su, and that he had collected the cash in a suitcase from an unknown Chinese person near ION Orchard mall.

This retraction came after Wang was confronted with objective evidence of his own cryptocurrency trades, said the prosecution.

Wang was ultimately denied bail by the judge, who found he was a flight risk.

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