Public Prosecutor v Rahmad bin Ibrahim

CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
JudgeJill Tan Li Ching
Judgment Date28 December 2007
Neutral Citation[2007] SGDC 349
Citation[2007] SGDC 349
Published date26 February 2008
Plaintiff CounselQuek Hui Ling & Jason Chan (Hon Yi
Defendant CounselRavinderpal Singh (Kalpanath & Co)

28 December 2007

District Judge Jill Tan:

The Charge

1. The Accused claimed trial to a charge under section 39(1)(a) which was punishable under section 39(2) of the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act (Chapter 65A) (“CDSA”). The charge alleged that in December 2005, the Accused came to be employed as a Transaction Manager by an entity known as Foreign Investment Advisory Services whose website was www.fias.sg. In the course of this employment, the Accused was instructed by this entity to remit a sum of £1,594.75 to Latvia.

2. It was the prosecution’s contention that the Accused had reasonable grounds to suspect that this sum of money directly represented the proceeds of criminal conduct and that this suspicion came to the Accused’s attention in the course of his employment with this entity, and by failing to disclose the suspicion to an authorized officer, he had committed an offence under section 39(1)(a) of the CDSA.

Undisputed Facts

3. The main facts of the case were not in dispute, and were admitted by way of an Agreed Statement of Facts (Exhibit P2) and its Annexes A to D.

The Job of a Transaction Manager

4. In November 2005, the Accused was searching the internet for part-time job opportunities, and came across the website www.fias.sg which appeared to be that of an organization named Foreign Investment Advisory Service (“FIAS.SG”). The website stated that FIAS.SG was jointly operated by the International Finance Corporation and the World Bank. The website also stated that FIAS.SG had, since its inception in 1985, assisted many countries to “help them reach their potential for attracting foreign direct investment.” It also stated that FIAS.SG worked “only at the request of governments, on topics identified by the government and agreed to by both parties.”[note: 1]

5. FIAS.SG announced vacancies for the position of “Transaction Manager”. Candidates had to satisfy three requirements: be over 20 years of age, have access to a personal computer with internet, and have a cellular phone with the short message system (sms) function. The job would only take up one to one-and-a-half hours a day, two to three times a week. It would earn the Transaction Manager S$1000 – S$1500 a month. The job of the Transaction Manager was “to transfer money from our partners of different countries (Australia, England, Spain, Germany and other) to our international representatives in Latvia.” The mode by which this would be carried out was stated to be as follows: “You [sic] objective will be collection of money (via WesternUnion transfer, as a rule) and further transfer to international representatives of our company (via International wire transfer, as a rule).”[note: 2]

6. The Transaction Manager would earn his salary by deducting 3% of the money received in each transaction. He would then transfer the balance to the “international representatives” in Latvia.[note: 3]

7. To apply for the job, candidates only needed to register with FIAS.SG, then submit their name, email address, country, city, street address, cellular phone number and home phone number. No information on job history or work experience was required.[note: 4] Upon registration, the candidate would obtain a list of “frequently asked questions” and would be able to study the “Employment Contract.”

8. The Accused applied for the post of Transaction Manager and was accepted some time in December 2005. He communicated with FIAS.SG chiefly by email.

The True Nature of FIAS.SG

9. The website www.fias.sg was in fact operated by an unknown international criminal syndicate (“the syndicate”). The syndicate had set up websites (“the bogus websites”) designed to replicate the actual internet banking websites of banks such as Citibank and Westpac. The syndicate then sent emails purporting to be from these banks to several Australian nationals (“the victims”), directing them to the bogus websites and asking that they update their internet banking user identification numbers (“user IDs”) and passwords at these bogus websites. This is commonly known as “phishing”. Through this phishing scam, the syndicate obtained the victims’ user IDs and passwords, then used this information to effect unauthorized transfers from their bank accounts, thus stealing their money.

10. Following such unauthorized transfers, the syndicate transferred the stolen monies around and from Australia with the help of the Transaction Managers. This was done to avoid detection and to ultimately transfer the money back to the syndicate.

The Real FIAS

11. A body named “Foreign Investment Advisory Service” (“the real FIAS”) does in fact exist. However, at the material time, it did not have its own website. It had a web presence only through the website of the International Finance Corporation (“IFC”), at http://www.ifc.org/fias. The real FIAS “advises developing country governments on how to attract and retain foreign direct investment and maximize their impact on poverty reduction.” Its web-page bears the following disclaimer:-

“It has come to our attention that unknown persons are sending fraudulent emails which appear to be from FIAS and/or which direct the recipients to log onto a Web site that appears to be associated with FIAS and the International Finance Corporation. These emails typically offer a job or an opportunity to work from home, and the emails ask the recipients to handle the transfer of funds through personal bank accounts. The purpose of the fraudulent emails is to induce the recipients to disclose personal information in order for the unknown person to commit identity theft.

FIAS, the International Finance Corporation, and the World Bank Group do not send any such spam emails and are not affiliated in any way with the persons responsible for sending these fraudulent spam emails.”[note: 5]

12. The defence’s position was that at all material times, the Accused had no actual knowledge that the syndicate was running the FIAS.SG website or the true nature of FIAS.SG.

The Accused’s Assignments

13. In all, the Accused was given three assignments by FIAS.SG. It is important to set out the chronology and details of each assignment in order to understand the information which came to the Accused’s knowledge in the course of his employment with FIAS.SG. The Accused received all his assignments by email, which came from a sender named “Administration”. Each email was preceded by a notice that the sender was a “notification-only email address that does not accept incoming email.”

The First Assignment (14 December 2005)

14. The Accused received his First Assignment by email on 14 December 2005 at about 11:35 am. The text of the email was as follows:-

“Hello,
Money has been sent to you.
Now you should go to Western Union and collect money.
To find the address and telephone of the nearest
centre, please, visit http://www.westernunion.com
and click “FIND AGENT LOCATION”.

Details for this transfer:
Date: 14/12/2005 11:35 am
Your profit: 130.97 AUD
Sender’s First Name: Christina
Sender’s Last Name: Raines
Sender’s country: Australia
Sender’s city: North Mackay
Amount of transfer: 4365 AUD
MTCN number: 1979032917

Then you take 130.95 AUD of the sum and the rest you
should send to us via Wire transfer to the following data:

Bank Name: PAREX BANK
Bank Country: LATVIA

Bank Address: RIGA, LATVIA”[note: 6]

15. That same day, at about 1:56 pm, the Accused collected S$5374.24 (equivalent to AUD 4365.00) at the Western Union branch at Woodlands Civic Centre (“Western Union Woodlands”). After deducting his commission of S$163, he handed over the balance to the Western Union staff to transfer to the Latvian Parex Bank account of one Oksana Arhipova (Account Number LV78PARX0007320973000) (“the Latvian bank account”).

The Second Assignment (22 December 2005)

16. The Accused received his second assignment on 22 December 2005 at about 11:47 am by an email which read:-

“Hello,
Amount of transfer is 1594.75 GBP (great britain pounds)
To reply to a message, please, sign in for a member zone.

Best regards,

your FIAS-Team.”[note: 7]

17. At about 3:14 pm that day, the Accused collected S$4527.10 (equivalent to ₤1594.75) from the Toa Payoh branch of Travelex. The amount was remitted by one Lee Chong-Hyuk from London, United Kingdom. After deducting his commission, the Accused tried to remit the balance S$4196.00 to the Latvian bank account but his request was rejected as he was unable to provide the Travelex staff with the reason for the transfer. Later that day, he went to Western Union Woodlands and requested for the S$4196.00 to be transferred to the Latvian account. This request was accepted and the S$4196.00 was collected from him.

18. That evening at 8:52 pm, the Accused sent FIAS.SG the following email:-

“Dear Sir/Madam,
Apparently, I have difficulties in forwarding SGD$4196 (less send charges) via
Travelex to the intended address as the counter staff wishes to know the
purpose of this transfer. As I was not able to give any reason, she refused to
process the transfer. Subsequently I went to the Western Union branch to
execute the transfer.”
[note: 8]

He followed this up with another email at 9:28 pm:-

“Dear Sir/Madam,
I wish to express my gratitude to
you in allowing me to carry out past job orders. However I wish to request
that you increase the frequency of the job order and the amount to be

transferred in future. Thanks”[note: 9]

19. At 10:28 pm, FIAS.SG sent the Accused the following email:-

“Hello,
did you use International Wire Transfer to transact money for Latvia?


To reply to a message, please, sign in for a member zone.

Best regards,

your FIAS-Team.”[note: 10]

The Accused replied at 10:35 pm:-

“Yes, via Western Union. The MCTN number is 068-519-5530.”[note: 11]

20. At 11:12 pm, the Accused received this email from FIAS.SG:-

“Hello,
Notice! You have made a mistake!
You should have transferred money to Latvia through the bank transfer and
not via Western
...

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