Ex-UOB VP pocketed nearly $5m from client for over a decade

·Senior Reporter
·4-min read
Arrested man in handcuffs with handcuffed hands behind back in prison
Arrested man in handcuffs. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — For over a decade, a United Overseas Bank (UOB) Vice President diverted close to $5 million of a customer's funds to a business partner for a nail spa business.

Throughout, Ling Shek Lun, 66, forged bank documents to continue deceiving the victim into placing more money into a non-existent UOB account. 

Ling, who rose the ranks to become a Vice President cum Customer Service Manager at the time of the offences, was an employee with UOB from 1992 to 2015.

He was jailed for nine years on Tuesday (4 January) after he pleaded guilty to 20 out of his 142 charges.

Most of the charges he pleaded guilty to were for forging bank documents for the purpose of cheating the victim, while the others were for criminal breach of trust as a servant of UOB for misappropriating the victim’s funds. The remaining charges were considered for his sentencing.

The victim and his wife maintained various accounts with Ling, who was their relationship manager from around end 1990s to early 2000s.

Around the same period, Ling was introduced to a woman, who became his customer and business partner. The woman set up a nail spa business, with Ling providing financial support with the understanding that he would share its profits. She set up another related company in 2010.

In 2004, the victim requested for recommendations on nominee services provided by UOB, and Ling proposed that the victim’s monies be held by UOB as a nominee. The victim agreed to the arrangement, even though UOB did not provide such a service.

From 2004 to 2014, the victim entrusted Ling with the cash, which Ling would then pass to the business partner.

While Ling was a Vice President cum Customer Service Manager between 2004 and 2014, the victim entrusted him with cash amounting to £2,701,415.32 ($493,8138.17) and US$14,010 ($18,986.35), or close to $5 million in total.

After Ling passed the victim’s funds to the business partner, the latter would deposit the monies into UOB time deposit accounts. The business partner would withdraw the monies for her nail spa business.

When the victim was in Singapore, Ling would personally hand over forged bank statements to the victim as “proof” that his cash had been deposited into the UOB “nominee” account. He also sought to induce the victim to hand over more money.

Ling forged documents by photocopying original UOB documents and statements while covering the account names and numbers. When Ling handed over the fake documents to the victim, he claimed that the account names and numbers were not shown on statements due to the nature of the account.

From 2012, Ling also came up with a template to prepare fraudulent documents. He would print the statements on UOB’s physical letterhead to pass to the victim.

On 6 November 2015, UOB filed a police report against Ling which stated that a lawyer representing the victim was demanding access to monies purportedly held in a UOB account.

On 25 September 2015, the victim demanded to transfer a sum of about £373,000 from UOB to his DBS bank account. The victim subsequently received an email from Ling who admitted that he had misused the victim’s funds.

The victim lodged a police report on 23 December 2015.

In 2018, the victim and his wife commenced a High Court suit against Ling for the return of their monies.

Ling was ordered to pay damages and interest in a 2019 judgement. The parties involved made a settlement agreement for the return of the monies from Ling on 4 January 2021.

According to Ling’s lawyer, Tan Hsuan Boon, Ling will be required to repay $3.2 million in instalments over 20 years. To date, Ling has repaid $312,415, which is around 10 per cent of the amount.

Tan sought a sentence of eight years’ jail for Ling, stating his advanced age and medical ailments as part of mitigation. Ling suffers from hypertension and hypercholesterol in addition to severe obstructive sleep apnea, which requires Ling to sleep with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.

Deputy Public Prosecutor V Jesudevan asked that Ling be jailed nine years, pointing out the “enormous number” of charges he faces and the large sum he had embezzled.

After his sentence was passed, Ling asked if someone would inform the victim of his jail term, as he would not be able to keep to his repayment plan while incarcerated.

In reply, the prosecution said that the repayment should not be disrupted by his jail term, as suggested by Ling.

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