Thursday, February 29, 2024
HomesingaporeBillion-dollar money laundering case: Vang Shuiming tries again for bail with 24-hour...

Billion-dollar money laundering case: Vang Shuiming tries again for bail with 24-hour tracking, fails

SINGAPORE: A man who has had the most number of bail reviews among the 10 people charged in the massive transnational S$2.4 billion (US$1.76 billion) money laundering probe tried again to be released on bail – turning to the High Court for a criminal revision.

Vang Shuiming, 42, had his application dismissed yet again on Thursday (Oct 12), with the judge reminding him that if a bail application has already been rejected before, a court will be “extremely reluctant” to grant bail in subsequent applications unless there are material changes to the facts or circumstances.

Vang’s lawyers from Drew & Napier largely repeated the same arguments they had canvassed in the lower court on Sep 29.

Vang faces five charges, four of which are non-bailable, which means the onus is on him to prove that he should get bail.

The charges are for using a forged document and for possessing criminal benefits worth S$2.4 million from unlicensed moneylending in China.

Vang, a father of two who moved his entire family here in 2019, is listed on charge sheets as a Turk. However, he also holds passports from China, Vanuatu and Cambodia.

He was arrested in August and remanded since along with nine other foreigners who were nabbed in simultaneous police raids.

Two days after he was arrested, more than US$2.8 million worth of cryptocurrencies was withdrawn from his Binance account by “a person of interest”, the lead investigating officer said in an affidavit to oppose bail for Vang.

Vang is linked to three other suspects on the run, including his brother.

For all these reasons the district judge rejected his latest application for bail on Sep 29.

However, Vang’s lawyers took to the High Court on Thursday seeking a criminal revision. Mr Wendell Wong and his team wanted Justice Vincent Hoong to revoke the lower court’s order to deny bail and grant bail instead.

The lawyers highlighted the presumption of innocence and said the district court should not have agreed with the prosecution since the latter’s affidavits were just “bare assertions”.

Mr Wong said Vang is “willing to subject himself to stark curtailments to his personal liberty even if released on bail” and can be placed under surveillance, essentially to be tracked 24 hours a day.

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In order for the High Court to exercise its revisionary powers, it has to be satisfied that there was a serious injustice arising out of a decision in the lower court.

Justice Hoong said he did not find that this threshold has been met.

He said it was undeniable that Vang faces serious charges, and while the defence said Vang could well be given only fines, the maximum sentence signals the gravity with which Parliament views each offence.

In this case, it is a jail term of up to 10 years, a fine of up to S$500,000, or both for money laundering.

Justice Hoong noted that Vang’s four money laundering charges are non-bailable offences, so bail is therefore not available to him as his right.

Instead, the onus is on Vang to show that bail ought to be granted to him, a concept laid down in a previous case.

However, instead of responding to or rebutting the investigating officer’s assertions that Vang was a flight risk, Vang chose a position that it was not for him to raise counter-evidence to prove his innocence, said Justice Hoong.

“This to me, is wholly unsatisfactory,” he said.

He repeated the risk of Vang absconding, given that he had a Cambodian passport that Singapore police were unable to locate, and significant assets overseas especially in Cambodia.

He also rejected Vang’s claim that he has “deep roots” in Singapore.

“In conclusion, I think it is useful here to remind the applicant that while the option remains open to him to seek another bail review or (High Court criminal revision), he must ensure that there are proper grounds to support his applications to the High Court for bail to be granted,” said Justice Hoong.

“Once an application for bail has been rejected, the court will be extremely reluctant to grant bail in subsequent applications, unless there is a material change in circumstances or new facts come to light.”

Mr Wong said he noted Justice Hoong’s comments on the issue of bail and said he would try to move the case along “as expeditiously as we can”. He had previously said in the lower court that his client intends to contest the charges.

Separately, Vang’s co-accused Su Haijin had a pre-trial conference on Wednesday, where the court said the prosecution could “consider releasing” any bank account or assets that are “not tainted”.

This was after Su’s lawyers from Lee & Lee had written to the Commercial Affairs Department about it.

The court will hear from the prosecution on this at Su’s next pre-trial conference.

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