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Banking & Finance

Singapore jails couple for ZTE-linked money laundering

SINGAPORE -- The State Court has sentenced a married couple to prison in a $3.6 million international money laundering case linked to Chinese telecom giant ZTE and the former prime minister of Papua New Guinea.

Singaporean national Lim Ai Wah was given a five-year prison sentence Thursday, according to a news release from the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau. Her American husband, Thomas Doehrman, got five years and 10 months.

The two had been convicted of conspiring with former ZTE regional representative Li Weiming, a Chinese national, in 2010 in the illegal payment of $3.6 million for a fictitious contract from ZTE to shell company Questzone Offshore, set up in the British Virgin Islands. Lim is a director at Questzone. Li remains at large.

The misappropriated money was a part of a $35 million contract involving a Papua New Guinea public trust fund to set up community colleges in the country. ZTE was contracted to supply telecommunications equipment.

Of the $3.6 million, $784,000 was sent to an account of then-Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Michael Somare, and $850,000 was given to Li via his wife's account. The money was remitted through Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore and HSBC in Hong Kong. The remainder was kept in Questzone's account.

"Singapore's position as a stable and prominent financial center in Southeast Asia makes us attractive as a destination for criminals to launder their criminal proceeds," prosecutors Alan Loh and Asoka Markandu said in a document submitted to the court Thursday. "Money laundering cases involving shell companies are on the rise, and the Monetary Authority of Singapore plans to take even stronger enforcement actions now to root out such criminal conduct."

"When persons are found guilty of money laundering, the law must come down harshly on them to deter other like-minded people from doing the same," the prosecutors wrote.

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