Indian-origin Singaporean jailed for cheating people of SGD 2.5 million

SINGAPORE, Jan 22 : An Indian-origin Singaporean was on Monday sentenced to seven years and four months in jail for cheating 20 people of SGD 2.5 million (USD 1.8 million).

Murali Krishnan Naidu was earlier convicted of 17 counts of cheating linked to nine people and involving a sum of SGD 2.5 million over 2008-13.

Another 43 charges, including those involving the remaining victims, were also considered during the sentencing during which Naidu made no restitution, The Straits Times reported.

In all, the 53-year-old Singaporean had cheated 20 people, including his family friends and acquaintances, of some SGD 2.5 million in an investment scam between 2008 and 2013.

He had duped most of the victims, who had drawn from their retirement savings to fund the “investments”, into thinking that their money would be invested in a lending business set up by his wife.

The prosecution said that in August 2006, Naidu’s wife incorporated in Singapore a licensed money lending company known as San Tee Credit (STC) to which she was the sole proprietor while he was a manager there.

Before STC was established, Naidu worked at another money lending company known as Diamond Credit from 2003 to 2006 and was familiar with how such firms raised funds for their money lending operations.

Deputy Public Prosecutors (DPPs) Jordon Li and Yeow Xuan said Naidu knew it was common for money-lending companies to borrow cash from investors through investment agreements.

They would then lend out this money to their customers.

The firms would pay the investors interest on the sums borrowed, lower than the interest which they charge on loans.

The prosecution said Naidu had made false representations to the victims by saying their money would be invested in STC’s lending business.

He typically promised the victims monthly returns of between 2.5 per cent and 3 per cent along with a repayment of their investment capital one year from the date of the investment agreement.

Naidu then induced his victims to hand over their money but completely stopped paying dividends to them in early 2013.

To date, it is unclear how he had utilised the victims’ money, said the prosecutors.

Screenings by the Registry of Moneylenders showed STC had not concluded any money lending transactions between 2011 and 2013.

“Despite the absence of any business activities undertaken by STC, the accused continued to pay the requisite fees to renew STC’s moneylending licence with the Registry of Moneylenders,” the DPPs told the court.

“This fortified the accused’s representations that STC was a legitimate and live money lending business.”

It is not stated in court documents what happened to STC after 2013, the Singapore daily reported.

Court documents also did not disclose how the offences came to light, but Naidu was charged in court in 2019.

The DPPs had urged the court to sentence him to at least seven years and 10 months in jail.

“While the accused has claimed to have made some payments of ‘investment returns’ to the victims, the existence of such payments should be accorded minimal mitigatory weight,” the broadsheet had the DPS saying.

“The returns were paid to lend a veneer of legitimacy to the scheme, and to encourage investors to continue pooling money in the scheme.”

They also said his offences had involved a high degree of premeditation and planning.

For each count of cheating, an offender can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined. (PTI)