Singapore jails Lamborghini owner for helping to launder S$2.5m stolen from Ethiopian govt

In 2016, Paul Gabriel Amos drove his Lamborghini recklessly on the ECP heading towards Changi Airport. — Paul Gabriel Amos/ Facebook pic via TODAY
In 2016, Paul Gabriel Amos drove his Lamborghini recklessly on the ECP heading towards Changi Airport. — Paul Gabriel Amos/ Facebook pic via TODAY

SINGAPORE, May 16 — A Nigerian national and Singapore permanent resident, who helped to launder US$1.84 million (RM7.66 million) that his friend had cheated from the Ethiopian government, was sentenced to three years’ jail today.

Paul Gabriel Amos, 47, also nearly caused a collision while driving his blue Lamborghini on the East Coast Parkway (ECP) expressway in 2016.

For that, he was fined US$4,200 and disqualified from holding all classes of licences for a year.

Amos pleaded guilty to six charges including abetting the dishonest receipt of stolen property, using the benefits of criminal conduct for his personal expenses, and reckless driving. Six other similar charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.

Amos was previously prosecuted in a New York district court in 2009 for committing bank and wire fraud. He was accused of duping Citibank of S$27 million in September 2008, but was ultimately not convicted.

To New York, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore

The court heard today that sometime in 2008, Amos received a call from his friend and compatriot Robert Umohette.

Umohette told him that he was involved in various projects with the Ethiopian government, and had cheated money from the state. He asked Amos to provide a bank account for him to transfer the money to.

While Amos owned a firm called Pags Resources, which had a corporate account with DBS Bank in Singapore, he did not want to get into trouble with the Singapore authorities.

He spoke to Mohammad Sohail, better known as Malik, who was a fellow director of a firm called Mac Warners.

The two agreed to use Mac Warners’ bank account in Australia to receive the funds, on the condition that Amos received a cut as commission.

Amos then provided Umohette with Mac Warners’ Westpac bank account details.

In September that year, Citibank N.A. New York received some documents purportedly signed by senior officials from the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE).

They included a corporate resolution for banking, which designated Citibank N.A. as a depository of the NBE’s funds and allowed certain designated senior officers of the NBE to appoint additional persons to conduct transactions in NBE’s account with Citibank N.A.

On October 2, 2008, Citibank N.A. New York was then tricked into transferring US$1.84 million from NBE’s corporate account to Mac Warners’ Australian bank account.

After that, Amos told Malik to travel to Australia and await further instructions. Amos then received a phone call from Umohette, who told him to transfer a portion of the funds to a bank account in Singapore belonging to Ideal Con.

Amos asked for more information on Ideal Con, but Umohette only provided the company name and its OCBC bank account number.

Around October 8, 2008, Malik transferred a total of US$669,509.42 from Mac Warners’ bank accounts to the Ideal Con account.

Umohette then instructed Amos to transfer another portion of the funds to a bank account in Hong Kong. Amos in turn instructed Malik to transfer A$623,467 from Mac Warners’ bank account to the Hong Kong account.

Amos told Umohette that he would collect his commission in cash in Hong Kong, as he did not want anyone to trace the illegal funds to him in Singapore.

He then travelled there and received US$300,000 in cash for helping Umohette.

As he was unable to open a bank account in Hong Kong, he told his Singaporean wife to join him there and do it for him. She complied and opened the account there on October 13, 2008, before they returned to Singapore.

About a week later on October 21, Amos submitted transfer instructions signed by his wife to HSBC in Hong Kong, telling the bank to transfer most of his commission to the Pags Resources’ bank account in Singapore.

He then issued a S$40,000 cheque to pay for his personal expenses.

Sometime between October and November that year, the Commercial Affairs Department received information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the US and the Australian federal police.

It learnt of fraudulent instructions that were sent to Citibank N.A. New York to transfer US$27.2 million from the NBE’s corporate account to various beneficiaries in the US, Australia, Japan, China, Hong Kong and Korea.

The sum of US$669,509.42 was seized by the Commercial Affairs Department and returned to Citibank N.A. in June 2010.

For the commission he received, Amos has made restitution of S$100,000 and another S$35,000 was recovered during investigations.

Drove recklessly on ECP

Separately, on October 2, 2016 at about 12.25am, Amos drove his Lamborghini recklessly on the ECP heading towards Changi Airport.

While driving on the first lane, he decided to overtake a car ahead from the left. He filtered left to the second lane, only to find another van travelling ahead of him.

He then zoomed through a narrow gap between the two vehicles before filtering back onto the first lane at high speed, narrowly avoiding both vehicles.

No collision occurred and no one was injured.

At the time, he did not hold a valid Class 3 driving licence as he did not convert his international driving licence issued by Nigeria within three months of obtaining his Singapore permanent resident status. — TODAY