Monday, March 4, 2024
HomesingaporeBillion-dollar money laundering case: Vang Shuiming fails in latest bid for bail,...

Billion-dollar money laundering case: Vang Shuiming fails in latest bid for bail, will claim trial

SINGAPORE: A man implicated in a massive transnational money laundering case has failed in his latest bid for bail, with a judge in Singapore saying he is a “high flight risk” who might have accomplices to help him abscond.

Vang Shuiming, 42, was denied bail after more than two hours of arguments on Friday (Sep 29).

His lawyers also revealed that he intends to contest his charges – one of using a forged document and four of possessing criminal benefits worth S$2.4 million (US$1.8 million) from unlicensed moneylending in China.

Vang is listed on charge sheets as a Turk, but he holds passports from China, Vanuatu and Cambodia. 

The father of two has been in remand since August when 10 foreigners were arrested following police raids on multiple residential properties in Singapore.

The value of assets seized or frozen in the money laundering case has since snowballed to S$2.4 billion.

Assets worth more than S$200 million were seized in relation to Vang’s case – one of the highest among the 10 people who were charged.

These include more than S$962,000 in cash that was found in the Good Class Bungalow in the Tanglin area he was living in when he was arrested.

Vang’s lawyers from Drew & Napier have been making every attempt possible to argue for bail, even turning to the High Court in a bid that was rejected.

PROSECUTION ARGUES AGAINST BAIL

Deputy Public Prosecutor David Koh said no bail should be offered as the charges are serious, noting that four of the five charges are for non-bailable offences and that Vang is a flight risk.

The prosecution had tendered an affidavit from the investigating officer in the case. 

Evidence showed that at least part of the money from Vang’s four bank accounts in Singapore originated from an unlicensed moneylending business Vang operated in China, said Mr Koh.

Instead of rebutting the evidence by the investigating officer by saying he did not run that business in China, Vang said the officer had no evidence.

Mr Koh said it appeared that Vang “(wished) to keep his powder dry”.

He cited multiple reasons for Vang to abscond if released on bail, including that Vang is “adept at evading the law”.

He is wanted by Chinese authorities for illegal online gambling, yet he and his family have managed to evade them and relocate to Singapore since 2019, said Mr Koh.

Vang had argued through his lawyers that he had gone to the Chinese embassy in Singapore earlier this year to renounce his citizenship and would have been arrested then if this were true.

Mr Koh said Vang has no real roots in Singapore and is neither a citizen nor a permanent resident. If he could uproot his family in 2019, he could do so again now, especially when he is facing serious charges in Singapore, said Mr Koh.

More importantly, Vang, his wife, his son and his daughter each have passports from Türkiye, China and Vanuatu.

While Vang admitted that he had obtained these through financial contributions or donations, he also said he had a Cambodian passport.

The Singapore police were unable to find this passport, and Vang did not tell them where it was or even where he thought it might be, said Mr Koh.

It is therefore possible for Vang, if released on bail, to head to Cambodia with this passport, where he has “sizable assets” of about US$18 million.

Vang had also admitted to having plans to obtain a passport from Saint Kitts and Nevis, a country in the Caribbean, and it is unclear if he managed to obtain it.

Vang is linked to three other wanted suspects who are overseas, including his brother. They could help him abscond, said Mr Koh.

DEFENCE HIGHLIGHTS PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE, POINT OF BAIL

Lawyer Wendell Wong argued for his client to be released on bail, saying that the presumption of innocence is a “cornerstone of our criminal justice system” and that bail is to ensure attendance in court.

In order for bail to be given, Mr Wong said Vang was ready to take certain measures.

These include being placed on electronic tagging, being put on the immigration authority’s blacklist and having his entire family surrender all their passports.

Mr Wong said the prosecution and the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) were engaging in “a circle of self-fulfilling and speculative concerns” in an “echo chamber”.

He highlighted discrepancies in the prosecution’s arguments – the charges say Vang is involved in unlicensed moneylending, but his warrant of arrest in China is for online gambling.

Mr Wong pointed to the case of Ewe Pang Kooi, an accountant who faced the maximum of life imprisonment for embezzling millions of dollars but was still granted bail. 

The prosecution had not indicated the jail term they would be seeking for Vang, whose offences have a cap of 10 years’ jail per charge.

“The prosecution cannot simply allude to motherhood statements and say the charge is serious,” said Mr Wong.

He said the prosecution cannot have its cake and eat it by saying that the court is not bound by strict evidential rules or findings of fact for bail reviews, yet say that Vang has to indicate his position on the charges.

“In essence, he will be contesting these charges … and that is why he is asking for bail, so he can conduct his defence without being prejudiced,” said Mr Wong.

He added that there was no assertion that Vang’s passports were obtained illegally – he had obtained them by paying or investing money in accordance with each country’s laws.

Vang will return for a pre-trial conference in October. He might face further charges, the prosecution said.

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