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Thread: Cashback property scam: Veteran lawyer found guilty

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    Default Cashback property scam: Veteran lawyer found guilty

    June 30, 2007

    Cashback property scam: Veteran lawyer found guilty

    By Chong Chee Kin


    A VETERAN lawyer has been convicted for his role in a 'cashback' property deal, with the judge admonishing him for carrying on with what was clearly a scam.

    Bachoo Mohan Singh, a lawyer for more than 30 years, was convicted in a district court yesterday of helping a Housing Board flat owner make a false declaration in April 2004.

    Although the agreed selling price of Mr Koh Sia Kang's five- room Redhill flat was $390,000, it was inflated by $100,000 as part of the so-called cashback scam.

    Such a scam involves a pro- perty seller declaring a higher price in order to secure a higher loan for the buyer.

    The cash difference between the actual and declared price is either kept by the buyer or split with the seller. These scams were rife before the relevant law was tightened two years ago.

    Singh, 59, got into trouble as a result of the sale falling through. He acted for Mr Koh, 53, a taxi driver, who sued the buyers.

    Mr Koh went to court, claiming he was cheated of money in the transaction. He also sued the property agent who had arranged the aborted sale to a couple.

    Property agent Kereen Teo Pei Pei, 28, was the first person to be convicted. She was fined $8,000 last year for trying to cheat DBS Bank by inflating the selling price of Mr Koh's flat by $100,000. Her manager was similarly fined.

    Mr Koh has yet to be charged with any offence.

    In arriving at his decision, District Judge Bala Reddy agreed with the prosecution that Singh knew all along about the cashback deal.

    The judge added that when Mr Koh went on to make the false $490,000 claim against the couple, Singh continued to act for him to sue them based on the false claim. Singh had thus abused the judicial process, he added.

    He showed no emotion when the judge announced his decision.

    Soon after, he sought permission through his lawyer to return to Perth in Australia. His immediate family is in Perth.

    His lawyer, Mr Ang Cheng Hock, said Singh was not a flight risk as his sister and mother are still living here.

    However, Deputy Public Prosecutor Vincent Leow objected, arguing that because Singh's family is in Perth, he was a potential flight risk.

    The judge will decide on Tuesday if Singh may leave the country. The mitigation hearing is set for July 27.

    Singh is now out on $20,000 bail. He could be jailed up to two years and fined.

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    Default Re: Cashback property scam: Veteran lawyer found guilty

    June 30, 2007

    Conflict of interest: Guilty lawyers may be struck off rolls

    Courts may go further than suspension, warns appeals judge


    By K.C. Vijayan, Law Correspondent

    A JUDGE has warned lawyers who place themselves in potential conflict-of-interests dilemmas, by acting for multiple clients, that they may be struck off the rolls.

    This latest caution from the judiciary about 'troubling patterns in legal practice' and their impact on public confidence came from Judge of Appeal V.K. Rajah in a judgment published yesterday.

    He said: 'Left unchecked, such misconduct will inexorably undermine the dignity of the legal profession and erode the very essence of the solicitor-client relationship.'

    So far, lawyers have only been suspended from practice in such cases, the latest being Mr Tan Phuay Khiang. He must cease practising for two years after being found guilty of professional misconduct.

    Justice Rajah warned that the courts may go further in future when he explained why a Court of Three Judges presided by Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, in April, found Mr Tan's behaviour reprehensible.

    The lawyer of 13 years' standing had acted for a couple in the sale of their Housing Board flat in Choa Chu Kang Street 51.

    The couple had allegedly been cheated by a moneylender, who advanced them a bridging loan to buy an HDB flat, and then collected the sale proceeds from their previous flat without refunding them the difference.

    The moneylender was able to do this because the couple signed papers prepared by Mr Tan allowing someone else to collect the money.

    In the end, the couple, who made $142,000 from the HDB for the sale of their flat, ended up with just $48.11 after the parties took their cuts.

    Mr Tan also failed to highlight to his clients the potential conflict of interest, because he also worked for other parties involved in the sale.

    Justice Rajah described the persistent attempts by Mr Tan to justify his actions as 'disconcerting', instead of 'acknowledging his lapses at the first available opportunity'.

    His remarks come in the wake of an increase in the number of probes against lawyers. There were 28 last year, more than twice the number a year earlier.

    The concern over falling standards led to the CJ launching a personal guidebook on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, for practising lawyers last month.

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