SINGAPORE: A couple, among the 10 people charged in a S$2.8 billion (US$2 billion) money laundering probe, turned to court on Wednesday (Oct 18) to seek bail but failed in their attempt.
The combined assets between Chinese nationals Lin Baoying, 44, and Zhang Ruijin, 45, come to about S$325 million, with Lin having the larger share of the pie.
In the exchange of arguments between the prosecution and defence, with affidavits from the investigating officers involved, more information about their backgrounds were revealed.
Lin faces three charges for forging documents to sell a property in Macau and for lying that she had not prepared the sale document. Zhang faces two similar charges of forgery over Macau property and a third charge for forging a loan agreement that stated he had received borrowed funds from a Hong Kong company.
Zhang and Lin were arrested in a bungalow along Pearl Island at Sentosa Cove in August, as part of simultaneous police raids that led to 10 people in total being charged in Singapore’s largest money laundering probe.
According to the prosecution’s documents, Lin has a 15-year-old daughter who lives in Beach Road with a domestic helper, while she lives separately in Sentosa.
Lin had asked to be released on bail to fulfil her duties as a mother.
According to affidavits by the two respective investigating officers on the couple’s cases, Lin has about S$215,556,000 in assets seized or frozen in Singapore.
This includes S$9.6 million in cash, about S$130.2 million in 14 bank accounts, S$1.9 million in cryptocurrency, five real estate properties worth S$72.2 million and two vehicles worth S$1.6 million.
On top of this, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) has also seized jewellery, luxury watches and bags and collectibles from Lin.
For Zhang, at least S$109.8 million of assets has been frozen or seized. These include more than S$14.6 millon in cash, more than S$60.5 million in 13 bank accounts, four real estate properties worth S$27 million and four vehicles worth S$5.4 million.
These assets were either in Zhang’s name or in his family office’s name – Golden Eagle Assets. The prosecution alleged that this “business” was set up to obtain an employment pass in Singapore and to manage his own wealth.
The police had also seized or frozen liquor, gold and luxury watches from Zhang.
The prosecution objected to bail for both Zhang and Lin. Zhang’s son is studying in Japan while his daughter is studying in China. Zhang’s parents and brothers are usually in China.
According to Zhang’s own accounts, he has about S$41 million in assets overseas, including shareholdings in a Philippine real estate development company, bank accounts in China, cash in a Chinese trading company and shares bought with funds held in a Hong Kong bank account.
Zhang claimed that he has no immovable properties in foreign jurisdictions that he can live in, even if he absconds.
He said he held S$93,000 in personal funds held overseas, and this is insufficient to support “even a basic cost of living for the long term”. He said the remaining value of his overseas assets lie in “illiquid stock”.
The prosecution said the fact remains that he has an incentive to flee Singapore where he can live comfortably overseas.
In Zhang’s affidavit, he claimed to be rooted in Singapore, having lived here for about four years, and intended to start and raise a family with Lin.
Zhang has known his romantic partner, Lin, who calls him “husband” although they are not married, for more than 10 years.
He has links with other co-accused, including his friend Su Haijin and his golf buddy Su Baolin. He also admitted going on vacations with Lin, Haijin, Baolin and their families – which the prosecution said spoke of the extent of Zhang’s friendships with other co-accused.
HOW LIN GOT THOSE PASSPORTS
The investigating officer in Lin’s case said she was able to get a passport from Dominica after paying an agent US$130,000, and another from Cambodia after paying US$160,000 to an agent.
She also has passports from Turkey and China, and it is not possible for the police to exhaustively determine how many passports she actually has, or to prevent her from obtaining new ones, said the officer.
Lin wrote in her affidavit that she had travelled to Europe and the Maldives in July 2022 and April 2023 with Zhang, even after being investigated from as early as June 2022. This shows they would not abscond.
The prosecution said neither Zhang nor Lin were charged at that time.
Lin also has substantial wealth overseas – six residential properties in the United Kingdom worth S$10 million and S$1 million worth of residential properties in the Philippines.
While Lin claimed that the Philippine properties were in “extremely poor, unliveable, conditions”, the investigating officer said this does not detract from the fact that the land on which the properties sit carry significant value.
Investigations indicate that the land was purchased for between 20 million yuan and 30 million yuan, or between S$3.8 million and S$5.7 million. This is far above the combined value of S$1 million that Lin claims the properties are worth, said the investigating officer.
Lawyer Chew Kei-Jin, who took over Lin’s previous defence lawyer, said the primary rationale for bail is rooted in the premise that an accused person should not be deprived of his personal liberty until he has been convicted and sentenced.
He said in the time his client has been remanded, no new charges have been laid against her.
Zhang’s lawyer, Mr Loo Choon Chiaw, said his client had no intention of absconding because he “is not prepared” to lose the assets seized by CAD, which amount to S$110 million.
His client has also not attempted to dissipate any of the seized assets even though he had been put on notice more than a year ago that he was a subject of CAD’s investigations.
District Judge Terence Tay ruled that no bail was to be granted to Zhang and Lin, saying they were flight risks with multiple passports each with the ability to flee the country if released on bail.