SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): A Maybank Singapore service manager misappropriated more than S$1.4 million in total from a workplace safe over 15 occasions, and used the monies to fund his gambling as well as forex trading activities.
On Wednesday (Sept 27), Phua Kai Liang, 34, was sentenced to three years and 10 months’ jail after he pleaded guilty to one count each of criminal breach of trust and dealing with the benefits of his criminal conduct.
Phua committed the offences from March 23 to June 10, 2021.
As a service manager at a Maybank branch in Choa Chu Kang Avenue 4, his responsibilities included counting the cash in the safe as well as arming and disarming its security alarm.
In early 2021, he was unable to repay his credit card debts after suffering heavy losses from trading in the foreign exchange market.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Leong Kit Yu said: “Out of desperation, he borrowed money from his friends, family and licensed moneylenders to pay off his debts.
“He also resorted to gambling at the casino in attempts to recoup the losses he had suffered from forex trading and to pay off his debts.”
In March 2021, Phua decided to fund his gambling and forex trading activities by using cash stored in the safe.
He knew that the key to the safe was kept in an unlocked drawer of a desk shared by him and the cash officers of the bank branch.
Before taking the monies, he would ensure the security alarm of the safe was disarmed. When nobody else was around, he would open it by using the key and entering a combination password.
Phua then helped himself to the contents in the safe and leave the bank after performing acts such as rearming the security alarm.
After that, he would either convert the misappropriated cash into casino chips or deposit his ill-gotten gains into his POSB account to be used for forex trading and personal expenses.
According to court documents, he used more than $1.3 million of his ill-gotten gains to obtain casino chips.
He returned a portion of his casino winnings to the safe and kept the remainder for his own use.
DPP Leong told the court: “To avoid detection, the accused would ensure that the cash that he had dishonestly misappropriated from the safe on a particular day would be returned to the safe before the start of the next business day, when nobody was at the branch.
“He would also ensure that the number and denomination of notes returned to the safe tallies with the cash records kept at the branch.”
His plan unravelled on June 11, 2021, after he took $404,000 from the safe and lost the entire sum at the Marina Bay Sands casino.
His fiancee encouraged him to confess to his wrongdoing and handed him $404,000 in cash later that day to make a full restitution for the amount.
Phua then asked one of the bank’s cash officers to help him replace the amount before coming clean to the branch manager.
Phua is now out on bail of $30,000 and is expected to surrender himself at the State Courts on Oct 30 to begin his jail term.
His lawyer, Riko Isaac from Tembusu Law, said: “Kai Liang, with the help of his loved ones, has made full restitution to Maybank (which)... ultimately suffered no losses.”
He said his client is no longer employed by Maybank and has been working for another firm since January 2022.