A Nigerian man involved in a scheme to swindle Citibank in New York City was jailed and fined by a Singapore court on Thursday (May 16) for money laundering and other offences.
Amos Paul Gabriel, a 47-year-old Singapore permanent resident, was sentenced to three years’ jail and fined S$4,200. He had also pleaded guilty to driving without a licence, and was handed a one-year driving ban.
The money laundering case made headlines in 2009 when Amos was indicted in New York on charges of scheming to steal from a National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) account at Citibank.
Amos and his co-conspirators had in 2008 sent fake signed documents to Citibank appearing to match signatures of officials at NBE, Ethiopia’s central bank.
Citibank transferred US$27.2 million (S$37.2 million) to various accounts before the fraud was discovered.
ELABORATE MONEY LAUNDERING SCHEME
Details of the elaborate scheme to launder the stolen money were heard at Singapore’s State Courts.
Amos, who was married to a Singaporean woman, received a call from his Nigerian friend Robert Umohette in 2008, asking him to provide a bank account for the transfer of the cheated proceeds.
Instead of using the account of his own company, Amos discussed the matter with a friend in Australia named Mohammad Sohail, also known as Malik.
They agreed to use the bank account of Malik’s company to receive the funds, on the condition that Amos received a cut of the cheated funds as commission, said Deputy Public Prosecutors Kelvin Kow and Shamini Joseph.
A total of US$27.2 million was transferred via Citibank from the corporate account of NBE to accounts in the US, Australia, Japan, China, Hong Kong and Korea as part of the broader money-laundering scheme.
Of this, US$1.8 million was transferred to Malik’s account. Amos then got Malik to transfer US$669,509 into a bank account in Singapore on Robert’s instruction.
He later acted on another of Robert’s instructions and asked Malik to transfer money to a bank account in Hong Kong. Malik transferred A$623,467 (S$591,000).
Amos then told Robert that he would collect his commission in cash as he did not want the stolen funds to be traced to him. He later travelled to Hong Kong to collect his commission of US$300,000.
The US$669,509 that was laundered into Singapore was seized from the relevant bank account by the Commercial Affairs Department, and returned to Citibank in 2010.
A further sum of about S$35,000 was recovered from Amos during investigations, and he paid another S$100,000 in restitution.
AMOS ADMITTED TO DRIVING LAMBORGHINI DANGEROUSLY
After initially claiming trial, Amos pleaded guilty on Thursday to various charges related to money laundering. He also admitted to traffic offences.
In October 2016, he had driven a blue Lamborghini dangerously on East Coast Parkway, overtaking a van at high speed. The father of the van driver made a police report.
Amos was later found without a valid driving licence in Singapore. He had a licence issued by the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but had not converted it within three months of obtaining his Singapore PR status.
On the money laundering charges, the prosecution called for Amos to be punished appropriately.
“Your Honour knows how important it is to protect Singapore’s reputation as a clean and trusted financial centre,” said the prosecutors. “We must stand strongly against the scourge of money-laundering.
The accused must be punished appropriately, so as to deter others from trying to launder money in Singapore.”
By Dominic C. Odoh
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