Man jailed for forging 16 NRICS and images, including one used in S$1.1 million Ethoz Capital scam

SINGAPORE: When his acquaintance asked him to create images of National Registration Identity Cards (NRICs) in exchange for money, a freelance photographer agreed.

He forged 16 NRICs or images of NRICs that later wound up being used for scams, including the S$1.1 million ruse involving financing solutions firm Ethoz Capital.

Huang Jianwen, 33, was sentenced to three years’ jail on Tuesday (Nov 16).

He pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiring to forge an NRIC, with another 13 charges taken into consideration.

The court heard that Huang got to know his co-accused Khor Choon Kiat, 25, sometime in 2017. He knew Khor through a friend, and Khor had asked him to take photos and design graphics for his business and personal use, Huang’s lawyer said.

Huang agreed to do the projects for Khor on a piecemeal basis, and was later asked to do design work for him. According to his defence lawyer, Huang asked Khor what this work was about, and Khor said he wanted to turn a few black and white NRICs into colour versions.

Khor promised to pay him S$30 for each image of an NRIC that he made. Khor later asked Huang to make physical NRICs bearing the names of two men, along with their NRIC numbers, offering him S$2,000 per card and giving him S$500 to buy materials for the forgery.

Huang made digital images of NRICs in the names of the two men and printed them onto PVC cards before laminating them. When he showed the product to Khor and one of his co-conspirators, he was asked if the cards could be made to look more realistic.

Huang then bought lenticular film from China to make a lion head logo and incorporated it into the physical NRICs he crafted. In front of Huang, a co-conspirator asked Khor if the NRICs could be used to withdraw money from banks and take loans from finance companies.

After this, Khor asked Huang to forge more NRICs under other names, promising to pay him more than S$2,000 per card. Huang agreed.

One of the NRICs Huang forged for Khor was used by conspirators in the Ethoz Capital case to collect a replacement title deed from a law firm for a property unit.

The deed was then used to complete a mortgage of the unit to Ethoz and dishonestly obtain a S$1.1 million loan from Ethoz. The conspirators in the Ethoz case – who face separate charges – were arrested before the money was disbursed.

Khor was arrested in October 2019 and Huang deleted all his emails with Khor and the images of NRICs he had with him once he suspected Khor had been nabbed.

According to Huang’s lawyer S S Dhillon of Dhillon & Panoo, Huang was asked to go down to a police station in December 2019, where he was told that Khor had implicated him in the making of counterfeit identity cards.

HE WENT TO SOME LENGTHS TO ENSURE CARDS LOOKED GENUINE

The prosecution called for three years’ jail, noting that NRICs are a convenient means of proving one’s identity and that Huang’s offences threatened to undermine this.

He did so for profit and went to some lengths to ensure that the forged cards appeared genuine, such as by obtaining lenticular film to replicate the security feature.

Defence lawyer Mr Dhillon said his client had told Khor he could not make physical identity cards, but that Khor “persisted”. 

He said Huang was not paid for some of his services rendered or materials supplied, and did not know anyone else in the scheme other than Khor.

Huang’s friend had introduced him to Khor, and Huang was told that Khor needed his services, said the lawyer. 

He said his client was remorseful and has been doing charity work, assisting small business to take photographs at a minimal cost during the pandemic. 

Khor pleaded guilty to his involvement and was sentenced to seven years’ jail in August this year.

For each charge of conspiring to forge an NRIC, Huang could have been jailed up to 10 years and fined.