MANILA, Philippines—The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in coordination with the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), announced Tuesday that it has stopped an international financial crime syndicate in the country that has victimized foreign companies of millions of dollars.
The syndicate was headed by a Singaporean known as Ah Chai Teo, along with Huang Chen, a Taiwanese, Lim Hoi Chung, a HongKong-British national, Chen Qwee Khai, another Singaporean, and Chen Zhi Quiang, a Chinese national, Police Director Samuel Pagdilao, CIDG Director, said in a press conference.
Ah Chai Teo, alias Aceteo, was found to be an illegal resident and a businessman in the country, AMLC officials said.
Several Filipino cohorts were identified as Romy Diaz Flores, retired policeman Guerrero Villacorta, Maryann Vasquez Basan, Pacido Ramos, and Janet Villareal, Pagdilao said.
The modus operandi of the syndicate was to attract foreign scrap metal buyers to buy large amounts of scrap metal but to later replace the scrap metal with garbage, rocks, and concrete as it was being shipped.
One of the businessmen who had been victimized was Lin Shang Yin from China. Yin had ordered 346.129 metric tons of copper wires from Zephyr Metal Trading, one of the syndicate’s fronts, in February 2011 at $7,000 per metric ton for a total of $2,422,903.
Yin came to the warehouse of the syndicate to seal the deal and to witness the scrap metal loaded into a shipping container and sealed.
During the shipping of the container, however, its doors were dismantled at the hinges so as not to break the seal, the copper wires were unloaded and replaced with rocks, concrete, and garbage, and then the door was bolted again.
Aceteo’s group required half of the payment to be paid after the scrap metal was loaded and sealed inside the container and the other half as the shipment was in transit.
When the shipping container had arrived and was opened, the victim realized he was defrauded by the syndicate.
The syndicate had created several shell firms as a front as well as a couple of legitimate corporations that were used to launder money.
Investigators had found out that the syndicate has been using the same modus operandi for more than 10 years meaning there are more likely many other foreign companies that have been victimized.
CIDG has already filed a case of syndicated estafa against all suspects before the Department of Justice. More than 150 personal and corporate bank accounts have already been frozen, Pagdilao said.
They were able to trace the money trail with the help of the banks and the AMLC, he added.
Aceteo was found to have left the country on February 2, 2012 according to data from the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation. Two other members, Lim Hoi Chung and Chen Qwee Khai, have also left the country last October 16, 2012 and January 9, 2012.
Pagdilao said that they have already begun coordination with international authorities to help them in determining the locations of the suspects and to apprehend them.