"It’s just a stupid thing that I have done"
Manjit Singh, aged 60, of Liverpool, was jailed for two years for stealing nearly £1 million from her employer and giving it to an online lover that did not exist.
She had been working for Lei Dat and Baig Solicitors since 2014 after losing her job with a women’s aid organisation.
Singh initially volunteered in the IT department before being taken on full-time in January 2017.
By 2019, Singh had been entrusted to work on cases and with the business’ accounts, transferring funds within the company and making payments to third parties.
But on October 6, 2021, her employer Naeem Baig checked the firm’s balance to find it standing at £40,000 when he was expecting it to be around £800,000.
He noticed eight transactions had been made into the same Irish account under the name Patricia Flannery, dating back to September 23.
The first payment of £1,000 was followed by transfers of £5,000 and £14,200 the following day.
Thereafter came deposits of £47,000 on September 27, £87,700 on September 29 and £155,080 on September 30. The transactions finally rose to £388,200 on October 4 and £260,000 on October 5, bringing the total to £958,180.
The same evening, Mr Baig spoke to Singh but she claimed the transfers had “been properly made by the firm”.
The next morning, he received a WhatsApp message from her stating:
“Naeem call me before you call the bank, I know what the problem was and I will solve it today regarding the bank payment.”
Singh said she would “explain in the office” and sent a picture of a cheque amounting to £945,000, apparently payable to the company.
Once she had arrived, Singh said she had “mistakenly made transfers” she had intended to make from her own account and would “get the money back” as she had £2 million in a Malaysian bank account.
Singh then spoke to her partner ‘Ravi Jani’ on the phone, which she handed to Mr Baig – who was told the funds would be paid the same day. But he “realised his firm was in jeopardy” and called the police.
Under interview, Singh said: “It’s just a stupid thing that I have done, thinking that I was helping someone.
“Then I end up getting myself caught, thinking the money would come back to the account and all would be ok.”
Singh told officers that she met Mr Jani, who apparently lived in Dubai, on an online dating site and “believed he wanted to marry her”.
Mr Jani initially asked her to “help with a few thousand pounds”, but she was then “asked for larger and larger payments” which he claimed would be refunded.
Singh stated that she spoke to the man on the phone up to five times a day and had seen him “once or twice” on FaceTime.
It was revealed that Singh fell victim to a “romance fraud” as investigators found that the stolen money was later transferred to two other untraceable accounts.
Attempts were also made to identify Mr Jani through an Interflora delivery Singh had received at work two weeks previously. This was linked to an IP address in Cape Town, South Africa.
To date, the man has not been traced by police.
Singh admitted eight counts of fraud by abuse of position.
Gwen Henshaw, defending, said Singh had been a police officer in her home country of Malaysia but left for the UK after her dad – who also served in the force – was shot dead.
Singh has no previous convictions.
Ms Henshaw said Singh suffers from “long-standing mental health issues” after her husband left her for another woman in 2019 while she was receiving treatment for cancer.
Ms Henshaw added: “She was told she was beautiful, he would care for her and look after her and they were in love.
“She is at a loss as to how she could have been so naïve.
“At the time, she was going through a very difficult period. It would seem she was ripe for exploitation as a result of a number of factors.
“She clearly believed the line Ravi Jani was spinning her. She believed she was helping a man she loved and the money would be returned.
“The defendant clearly bitterly regrets her involvement in this offence. Ms Singh feels incredibly stupid for having been taken in and acted as she did.”
Judge David Aubrey KC told Singh: “The amount stolen by you is, in truth, quite staggering.
“Not only were you a fraudster, you were also the victim of a fraud that has rightly been called a romance fraud.”
“You did not receive one penny for that which you did dishonestly. At the time, it is quite apparent you had been exploited.
“Much harm has been inflicted by your dishonest actions. The court also accepts that much harm has been inflicted on you.
“He inveigled his way into your life. You were in awe, you were under his spell while he span a yarn to you because you were seeking marriage.
“There was never going to be any sailing into the sunset with him. He groomed you, he manipulated and exploited you – reaching out to your heart, promising to come to the United Kingdom and marry you.
“He had your vulnerabilities in the palm of his hands, and you were in his clutches. But you knew what you were doing, and that you were dishonest in what you were doing.
“I am satisfied you knew what you were doing was wrong and dishonest. I have no doubt whatsoever you are extremely ashamed of your conduct and are deeply remorseful.
“You are described as a kind, friendly, compassionate person – a good woman. You were indeed before Mr Jani came into your life.”
Singh was jailed for two years.