Public Prosecutor v Zhang Ming and another

CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
JudgeKok Shu-en
Judgment Date18 January 2023
Neutral Citation[2023] SGDC 10
Citation[2023] SGDC 10
Docket NumberDistrict Arrest Case No 904849 of 2021 & Ors, Magistrate’s Appeals No 9251 & 9252 of 2022 - 01
Hearing Date08 December 2022,20 December 2022
Plaintiff CounselDPP Edwin Soh
Defendant CounselAnthony Lim (Anthony Law Corporation) and Ramesh Tiwary (Ramesh Tiwary)
Subject MatterCriminal Procedure and Sentencing,Sentencing,Criminal Law,Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act
Published date27 January 2023
District Judge Kok Shu-en: Introduction

The first accused person Zhang Ming (“Zhang”) is a 39 year old Singapore permanent resident, and the second accused person Yin Junjun (“Yin”) is a 39 year old People’s Republic of China national.

Each accused person faced a total of 6 charges involving identical subject matters. They both pleaded guilty to 3 charges:

Zhang’s charge Yin’s charge Offence section Referred to in these grounds as
DAC 904849-2022 DAC 904854-2022 Section 47(2)(b) Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act (“CDSA”) read with section 109 Penal Code, punishable under section 47(6) CDSA “The first proceeded charges”
DAC 904850-2022 DAC 904855-2022 Section 47(2)(b) CDSA read with section 109 Penal Code and section 124(2) Criminal Procedure Code (“CPC”), punishable under section 47(6) CDSA and section 124(8)(a)(i) CPC “The second proceeded charges”
DAC 904851-2022 DAC 904856-2022 “The third proceeded charges”

The accused persons gave their consent for the remaining 3 charges to be taken into consideration (“TIC”) for the purposes of sentencing.

Zhang’s charge Yin’s charge Offence section
MAC 905425-2021 MAC 905426-2021 Section 35(1) Miscellaneous Offences Act
DAC 904848-2022 DAC 904853-2022 Section 47(2)(b) CDSA read with section 109 Penal Code and section 124(2) CPC, punishable under section 47(6) CDSA and section 124(8)(a)(i) CPC
DAC 904852-2022 DAC 904857-2022

I sentenced each of the accused persons to a total sentence of 33 months imprisonment. The accused persons are dissatisfied with the sentences imposed and have both filed appeals.

Facts

In early 2021, Zhang was introduced to a person known to him as ‘Ah Xiang’, who was purportedly in the business of online gaming and soccer betting. Ah Xiang asked Zhang if he would use his bank account to receive and transfer out funds to other bank accounts. Zhang was told that the funds to be received and transferred would amount to tens of thousands each day. Zhang told Ah Xiang that he was not prepared to use his own bank account for these transfers, as he thought his account might be frozen if there were large amounts of money flowing in and out.

Ah Xiang knew that Zhang worked at an agency for foreign workers and suggested that Zhang use the bank accounts of foreign workers to conduct the transfers of funds instead. He told Zhang that he would be paid S$200 in commission for every S$10,000 that he helped receive into a bank account.

Zhang discussed Ah Xiang’s proposal with his brother-in-law, Yin. Zhang and Yin agreed that they would use the bank accounts of foreign workers who were leaving Singapore to conduct the inward receipt and outward transfer of funds as directed by Ah Xiang. Zhang and Yin started collecting ATM cards and internet banking credentials for bank accounts belonging to foreign workers who were leaving Singapore and shared the details of these bank accounts with Ah Xiang via Telegram.

Ah Xiang would alert Zhang and Yin via a Telegram chat group each time transfers of funds were made into the bank accounts. On the three 3 proceeded charges, the amounts that were received in the bank accounts controlled by Zhang and Yin are as follows:

Charges Details of transaction
The first proceeded charges S$61,000 received in POSB account no. XXX belonging to one Fan Jintao on or about 1 June 2021
The second proceeded charges S$103,903.70 received in POSB account no. XXX belonging to one Xu Guixin between 3 and 4 May 2021
The third proceeded charges S$437,558 received in POSB account no. XXX belonging to one Pei Xingbo between 16 and 25 May 2021

After the funds were received in the bank accounts, either Zhang or Yin (who both had control over the bank accounts) would withdraw the monies received via ATM machines in cash and then make arrangements to transfer the monies to cryptocurrency wallets or foreign bank accounts, in accordance with Ah Xiang’s instructions.

Investigations revealed that the sums received in the bank accounts were in fact the proceeds of crimes, specifically cheating offences under section 420 of the Penal Code. Both Zhang and Yin had reasonable grounds to believe that the monies that they received in the bank accounts directly represented, in whole, another person’s benefits of criminal conduct.

Zhang and Yin’s activities came to light after they were arrested on 20 June 2021 after being stopped in at a police roadblock. Zhang was the driver of the vehicle, while Yin was the passenger. In the vehicle, the police officers found cash totalling S$406,850 and 71 ATM bank cards. The accused persons were unable to provide a satisfactory explanation for why they were in possession of the cash and ATM cards. This formed the subject of the TIC charge under section 35 of the Miscellaneous Offences Act that each accused person faced.

Antecedents

Both Zhang and Yin were traced with antecedents that were not relevant to their present case. They each had a previous conviction for drink driving. Zhang was previously also placed on drug supervision for the consumption of methamphetamine and amphetamine.

Prosecution’s sentencing submission

In seeking a global sentence of 36 months’ imprisonment for each accused person, the Prosecution highlighted the following offence-specific aggravating factors, which the High Court in Huang Ying-Chun v Public Prosecutor [2019] 3 SLR 606 (“Huang Ying-Chun”) had set out as sentencing considerations for offences under section 44(1)(a) CDSA, which the Prosecution argued can be applied to section 47 CDSA offences: The amount of criminal proceeds laundered was very large. Each of them faced charges for conspiring to transfer a total of $912,129.70 in criminal proceeds, which they first received in the bank accounts and then transferred to foreign bank accounts and cryptocurrency wallets. There was a transnational element involved in the offences, given the transfer of the criminal proceeds to foreign bank accounts. Premeditation and sophistication in the criminal enterprise, which involved using the bank accounts of foreign nationals who were leaving Singapore to receive criminal proceedings. The accused persons offended over a significant period of time from 3 May 2021 to 20 June 2021, stopping only when they were arrested on 20 June 2021. The accused persons were motivated by the prospect of large rewards. Zhang received $200 in commission for every $10,000 that was received, which he shared equally with Yin. For the $912,129.70 that was received in total by the accused person, they would thus have received $18,242.60 in commission. The accused persons each face three TIC charges.

The Prosecution noted that the accused persons had not made any restitution.

The Prosecution cited precedent cases involving offences under section 47 of the CDSA. The offenders in those cases were sentenced to varying imprisonment terms. The table setting out the details of the precedents that the Prosecution tendered to Court is at Annex A.

Defence’s sentencing submission and mitigation

The Defence sought a global sentence of 18 to 24 months’ imprisonment against each accused person. In their submissions, they urged the Court to consider the following factors, which were also based on the sentencing factors set out by the High Court in Huang Ying-Chun While the total amount involved across all the CDSA charges was $912,129.70, the amount involved in the proceeded charges was $602,461.70 and the 2 charges that the Prosecution was seeking consecutive sentences on involved $498,558.00. The Defence argued that the Court ought to primarily focus on the proceeded charges for the purposes of sentencing, and then look at the amount in the TIC charges after that. The accused persons had no knowledge as to the offence-specific factors going towards harm as set out in Huang Ying-Chun, such as involvement of a syndicate, seriousness of the predicate offence and harm done to the confidence in public administration, as the accused persons were involved into the receiving and transferring of the monies and knew nothing else. The collecting of ATM cards and bank account details from foreigners was not a sophisticated scheme that involved a high degree of planning and premeditation. In their written submissions, the Defence asserted that “practically anyone could have thought of such a scheme”. The period of time that accused persons engaged in their criminal activity was not a long period, being 49 days. The accused persons did not have direct knowledge of the underlying predicate offences and were only involved in receiving and transferring the monies. The accused persons were not in Singapore for the sole purpose of committing the offences but had either been studying or working in Singapore for a long time. The accused persons did not have any relevant antecedents, had cooperated with the authorities and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

The Defence also cited a few precedents, including the case of Public Prosecutor v Lee Jun Xiao [2022] SGDC 146 (“Lee Jun Xiao”). It submitted that the indicative sentencing ranges proposed by the District Court in Lee Jun Xiao could be applied in the present case:

Value Indicative range
Up to S$100,000 Up to 9 months’ imprisonment
S$100,000 – 300,000 9-18 months’ imprisonment
S$300,000 – 500,000 18-27 months’ imprisonment

Based on the proposed indicative sentencing ranges in Lee Jun Xiao, the Defence proposed sentences of 3 months’ imprisonment and 15 months’ imprisonment on the first and third proceeded charges respectively.

Reasons for the sentences imposed Punishment provisions

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