SINGAPORE: A man accused of using illegal transnational gambling proceeds to buy a S$23 million (US$16.8 million) condominium unit in Singapore was denied bail on Wednesday (Oct 18), despite his lawyer explaining why he had left China with his family when he was wanted there.
Wang Dehai, a 34-year-old man listed as a Cypriot in charge sheets, faces two charges in Singapore. The first is for using criminal proceeds from a remote gambling service based in the Philippines but aimed at China users by buying a unit in The Marq at 8 Paterson Hill in November 2019.
The second is for possessing S$2.3 million in Singapore in August this year which represents what he earned from the illegal remote gambling offences.
Wang, who has passports from four countries, has been remanded since Aug 16, for more than two months. He is one of 10 people accused in a S$2.8 billion money laundering probe.
Billion-dollar money laundering case: Singapore police began ‘comprehensive intelligence probe’ in early 2022
DEFENCE ARGUES FOR BAIL
His latest lawyer, Ms Megan Chia of Tan Rajah & Cheah, argued against the prosecution’s objection for bail to be granted.
She stressed the presumption of innocence for her client, as well as his ability to prepare adequately for his defence.
With him remanded, it would be difficult for the defence to meet him often and long enough to prepare his case, she said.
Ms Chia also disagreed that Wang is a flight risk, as asserted by the prosecution, pointing to how Wang has established a home in Singapore for his three children, his wife and his in-laws.
There were also plans for him to bring his family to Singapore as well, she said.
The lawyer argued that Wang’s conduct shows his intention to stay in Singapore to establish a good and safe home for his children so they can obtain high-quality education.
On the fact that he has passports from Vanuatu, Cyprus, Cambodia and China, Ms Chia said the Vanuatu passport has expired.
“Far from abusing his passports, he has stayed rooted in Singapore for the past five years. That’s not the conduct of a person on the run or an international fugitive,” she said.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Edwin Soh rebutted the defence’s points in turn. On the point of the defence being unable to prepare its case adequately, he said both Ms Chia’s requests to interview Wang for this hearing were granted.
She was able to prepare an affidavit and written submissions, and lawyers can bring in approved laptops, with material from the devices shared with the accused, said Mr Soh.
Mr Soh cited the affidavit of the investigating officer (IO), who said Wang was recruited into an online gambling business in the Philippines, which provided remote gambling services to people in China.
The IO showed a wanted notice, which stated that there was “significant suspicion” of Wang’s involvement in a crime in China in 2015.
The IO said that the money in Wang’s two charges can be linked to the illegal remote gambling operations.
While Wang asserted that remote gambling is legal in the Philippines, Mr Soh said this does not mean his guilt is absolved in the charges he faces in Singapore.
“It is clear, especially from the wanted notice that he offered the remote gambling to persons in China, and it is an offence in China, as shown by the wanted notice,” said Mr Soh.
He said Wang claimed that his offence in China would have drawn a high fine or a suspended sentence, so it is not as serious as the prosecution made it out to be.
“This misses the point … even for a potential suspended sentence, the accused saw fit to uproot his family from China to evade the same. It can be seen in his admission from his own affidavit,” said Mr Soh.
In Wang’s affidavit, he said the offences he faced in China would probably result in a high fine and suspended sentence.
“The reason I left China is that the suspended sentence involves suspension of my civil liberties, which requires periodic reporting to … the authorities … and restricts my ability to leave China,” Wang wrote in his affidavit.
Mr Soh said Wang now faces even more serious charges in Singapore, which can result in a long jail term.
“If he was willing to leave his homeland in order to avoid serving a suspended sentence and be on the run, then surely your honour, the accused will be even more motivated to abscond to avoid a lengthy imprisonment term,” said Mr Soh, adding that this proves Wang is “a very high flight risk”.
Wang’s brother-in-law and cousin are part of the same remote gambling business and are also wanted. They are at large and can help Wang abscond, said Mr Soh.
On Wang’s passports, he said Wang admitted that he has been to Cambodia only twice, yet somehow managed to obtain a Cambodian passport.
This shows his ability to obtain passports, said Mr Soh.
In response, Ms Chia said the Chinese government issued her client a passport in 2016 despite the 2015 wanted notice.
She said Wang’s purpose of bringing up the warrant in his affidavit was to be upfront about what he faces in China, and it should be read in context with his evidence.
Wang’s primary concern was that the inability to travel out of China would stop him from being with his family, which he had planned to relocate to Singapore, said Ms Chia.
She said Wang’s principal motive to move to Singapore was not to evade the police – instead, he had committed to settling in Singapore.
District Judge Terence Tay ultimately denied bail to Wang, saying he is a flight risk who has accomplices at large and enough money to live comfortably overseas.
Wang is one of several people in the broader money laundering case to appear in court on Wednesday to seek bail. The others are: Couple Lin Baoying and Zhang Ruijin, as well as Su Jianfeng.
A fifth accused, Chen Qingyuan, was set for a bail review on Wednesday morning but this was adjourned after he changed lawyers – getting Drew & Napier lawyers on board to defend him.