Chopard Singapore fails to notice missing millions

Geneva-based luxury goods company Chopard Singapore failed to notice it was missing S$11.2 million until a government investigator started looking into the embezzlement after a tip-off.

Now the former accounting manager of the luxury goods company, known for its watches and jewellery, has been sentenced to 15 years’ jail for siphoning the money from her employer over nearly seven years.

Chew Siew Lang, 53, misappropriated most of the money using erasable ink to write on cheques made out to Chopard suppliers for bogus transactions. After gaining the required two signatures on the cheques – Chew herself was an authorised signatory – she replaced the payee’s names with her own.

The offences took place between January 2006 and August 2012, and Chew spent at least $2.1 million on lottery bets – she wrote 76 cheques of between $20,000 and $68,000 to a Singapore Pools retailer.

In December, she pleaded guilty in the High Court to 56 charges – six counts of criminal breach of trust, 30 counts of falsification of accounts and 20 counts of using the benefits of her criminal conduct. A further 187 similar charges were taken into consideration.

The prosecution had sought 18 to 20 years’ jail, but the defence argued that Chew has an impulse control disorder that turns her into a pathological gambler. The case was adjourned after Justice Woo Bih Li asked if there was a causal link between her mental disorder and her offences.

In her latest appearance, Chew’s lawyer, Daniel Chia, told the court his client was not pursuing the point about her disorder after the prosecution submitted two psychiatric reports. He sought a jail term of 12 years.

In sentencing, Justice Woo noted it was good Chew has the support of her family. “However, I also have to take into account that you misappropriate a very huge sum for which only a small portion has been recovered.”

Chopard found out about the embezzlement only after the Commercial Affairs Department started investigating Chew. The company sacked her in August 2012, and two months later filed a civil suit against her. It has managed to recover only $197,000.

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