Man jailed for cheque fraud: What can HR do?

A former employee of a Singapore company who forged lease agreements, smuggled almost $1m of fraudulently obtained money and returned to try to cheat another company of nearly $3.6m has been sentenced to jail. What can HR and other senior business leaders do to combat escalating incidences of fraud?

Man jailed for cheque fraud: What can HR do?
Tan Yong Hai first began forging lease agreements while employed by asset management and engineering services supplier Sodexo Singapore.

He was working as a facility executive, overseeing estate management and building maintenance for Sodexo's clients, as well as forging cheques on their behalf.

The 31-year-old has been sentenced to nine years and three months' jail after facing charges for six counts of forgery, one immigration offence, and for removing property from Singapore's jurisdication.

And according to EY’s latest Global Fraud Survey, fraud, corruption and bribery remain “pervasive”. 

In 2011, 31 of the 36 reported US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) cases related to activities in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.

“Hard times strain ethical standards,” the report said.

“There is little question that the current economic situation has exerted negative pressure on employees. One of the most troubling findings of the survey is the widespread acceptance of unethical business practices.”

In the case of Tan, it was in 2011 that it was discovered nine lease agreements had been forged for a project which involved one of Sodexo's clients, Invensys Process Systems, paying rent for foreign engineers working in Singapore.

When Invensys started investigating the forgery, Tan got wind of it, and stole cheques by using the company access card, which he then forged the signatures on and banked a whopping $990,000.

Following this he withdrew the money, bar $40,000 and travelled to Thailand. He then came back into the country, and later had the intent to defraud another company $3.6m, but a bank alerted the company’s chief financial officer, who alerted the police.

Boards and audit committees continue to face significant challenges in tackling the risks of fraud, bribery and corruption in their businesses, according to the EY report.

“Meanwhile, boards struggle to effectively absorb the large volume of compliance information they are presented with.”

So how can boards and those tasked with compliance respond to these challenges? The EY report gives some key pointers:
  • First, they must ensure effective lines of communication with a broad range of roles within the business. This will enable the board to question the information that they are given.
  • Second, improvements can be made to focus compliance reporting to the board.
  • Third, boards must make sure that they are asking the right questions. Such as: Does management at headquarter level understand local risks and have strategies been developed to deal with these specific risks?

What can HR do?
Scenarios like Tan’s show the need for employers to perform stringent background checks before employing staff. 

Career expert Heather Huhman says that this should go without saying – however, too many HR professionals take for granted that applicants are telling the truth.

“Contact the university where the candidate claimed to have received a degree. Does the university have record of the candidate? Did the university offer its program at the time the candidate claims to have graduated? Complete calls to former employers. Ensure the candidate’s employment timelines and salary claims are truthful.”

Employment history is the number one embellishment on the CV of jobseekers in the Asia Pacific, according to a survey released in May.

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