A high-rolling gambler is out over half a million dollars after failing to convince Australian authorities that a family-run brothel was the source of his wealth.
On Monday, a New South Wales court sentenced Singapore national San Wei Koh to six months in prison for dealing with property suspected of being the proceeds of criminal activity. Koh will likely be deported once his sentence has been served.
According to the Newcastle Herald, Koh arrived in Australia in April 2015, at which time he declared to customs agents that he wasn’t carrying more than $10k in Australian money. But one week after his arrival, he deposited $300k into a safety deposit box Sydney’s The Star casino. The day after that, he deposited another $700k.
Koh proceeded to gamble a little and made some significant withdrawals before The Star staff alerted police to Koh’s sketchy behavior. Police found $600k remaining in Koh’s safety deposit box and took him in for questioning.
Koh claimed the $700k belonged to his aunt, who allegedly ran a brothel in Newcastle. Koh said his aunt had asked him to collect the money on behalf of her ex-husband, who lived in China. Koh said he went round to his aunt’s house, but she wasn’t home, so he let himself in through an unlocked back door, retrieved a suitcase from her bedroom and left.
Koh claimed to have transferred $100k to his aunt’s ex-husband, but Australian police were unable to confirm the man’s existence. Koh’s ‘aunt’ denied being related to Koh and also denied any knowledge of the $700k. Koh also couldn’t explain the source of his original $300k deposit, nor that of a separate $200k deposit.
Judge Graeme Henson spoke for all concerned when he described the facts of the case as “somewhat convoluted” and Koh’s testimony as having “a sense of being less than the full narrative.”
Henson rejected Koh’s attorney’s request for a suspended sentence but did reduce the length of Koh’s prison stint due to Koh having provided police with information that led to two other individuals being charged with money laundering offences and the confiscation of $1.59m in “tainted money.” The $600k in Koh’s safety deposit box was confiscated and forfeited.
The Star has had plenty of sketchy but affluent characters pass through its doors over the years, including Pete Tan Hoang, a Vietnamese national who came to the country broke, never filed a tax return in 12 years yet somehow was caught at The Star carrying $1.5m in cash. Hoang was shot dead on a Sydney street in 2014.
In 2013, The Star was criticized for having accepted $4m in deposits from a Chinese national whose Australian tax returns showed his annual income maxing out at $124.