A former local-government official in Jiangxi province, Li Huabo, who was accused of a 94 million yuan (HK$116 million) fraud, was yesterday sentenced to 15 months' jail in Singapore for receiving stolen money in his bank accounts in the city state.
Singapore subordinate courts judge Siva Shanmugam doubled Li's bail to S$160,000 (HK$1 million) after handing down his verdict yesterday, pending a possible appeal.
Li had testified he had been coerced into confessing to police that he had masterminded a scheme to embezzle the funds.
The former section director at the finance bureau in Poyang county denied three charges of receiving S$182,700 in stolen money in his Singapore accounts, claiming he had been framed by former co-workers.
Li, 51, would appeal against the verdict, his lawyer, Subhas Anandan, said.
Prosecutor Luke Tan had asked for a jail term of 14 to 18 months, arguing that Li's acts would damage Singapore's standing as a financial hub, giving it "an undesirable reputation for money laundering".
The judge rejected Li's allegations of coercion and ruled that his confessions were voluntary.
Li claimed his personal wealth, including S$1.5 million used to obtain his Singapore permanent residency and a S$1.3 million, three-bedroom apartment in the city state, was built through businesses and not by siphoning public funds.
"There were no embezzled funds at all," Li said when he took the stand in February, rejecting the prosecutor's claim that he plotted with his co-workers to steal from the county. "It was all my own money."
Li allegedly set up a shell company in 2006 and used bogus government seals and fake invoices to steal millions, Tan said.
Li was arrested in March 2011 after Singapore police acted on a tip-off from Li's remittance agent and a request from Beijing via Interpol. Singapore and China do not have an extradition treaty.
Li's job as a finance bureau official in the county paid 3,000 yuan a month, but he also traded coal, cotton and fertiliser, ran a tourism agency organising trips to Macau, and had a 42 per cent stake in an oil refinery. Li said he made about 100 million yuan in three years from his investment in the refinery.
Officials in Poyang set up a task force in February 2011 after Li allegedly called a colleague, confessing to stealing from the government.
Li said he never made such a call and it was part of a set-up to frame him.
The 94 million yuan he allegedly embezzled was equal to a quarter of the struggling county's annual revenue.
The investigation netted 57 people, including the finance bureau chief who was jailed for 19 years for his role in the embezzlement.