17 September 2014
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Man sues wife over 'hacking' in midst of divorce

Straits Times
17 Sep 2014
K.C. Vijayan

WHILE they were going through a bitter divorce, a woman hacked into her husband's laptop and used the information against him, the man has claimed.

And it was her own lawyers who recommended the hacker to her, it is alleged.

The man is suing both his estranged wife and her law firm for trespass and breach of confidence, in addition to the ongoing divorce proceedings.

High Court Justice Quentin Loh, in dealing with the case, was so concerned to learn of these allegations that he has asked the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) to probe.

"I was troubled by the allegation that lawyers were putting forward a computer expert to hack into opposing parties' computers, notebooks or iPhones," he said in judgment grounds released last week.

"There was also possible perjury and breaches of professional ethics and rules," he noted, adding that crimes could have been committed, including those under the Computer Misuse Act.

Although the judge allowed the information obtained by the wife to be used in the divorce case, he also gave the green light for the husband's lawyer Edmund Kronenburg to appeal against this decision.

If it is overturned by the Court of Appeal, this will be a landmark case because it means that information obtained illegally cannot be used in civil proceedings.

The judge also clarified that it was up to the Family Court dealing with the divorce to decide if the information was to be admitted as evidence.

The couple, who started divorce proceedings two years ago, cannot be named to protect the identity of their two children, aged eight and six.

The man claims that his wife copied the contents of his laptop in December 2012, including backup data from his iPhone, when he was on holiday in Hong Kong with the children.

Her sworn statements to the Family Court later contained information taken from the laptop, including SMS and WhatsApp messages.

She denied hacking into the laptop. But the woman, who had already moved out of the family home at the time, did admit she had returned to get her belongings.

She noticed the laptop, accessed it and saw a number of files on the desktop which she claimed included a plot to frame her.

So she asked her private investigator, Mr Dennis Lee, to make copies of the relevant files to show that the husband had been untruthful during divorce proceedings.

Mr Lee was someone who had been recommended to various clients of family lawyers, including the woman's lawyer in the family court proceedings, as someone "who could hack into computers, notebooks or iPhones, whether protected by a password or not", according to allegations noted by the judge.

Said Justice Loh: "Dennis Lee is not the usual private investigator in divorce cases but was clearly retained because of his expertise in computers."

He noted that there was an "evasive silence" as to how he came to be hired by the wife.

"No doubt the police or the AGC will get to the bottom of this matter," he added.

Stressing that he had not yet come to conclusions about the allegations, he made it clear that the court "takes a very dim view of solicitors who sanction, let alone encourage, their clients' involvement in such illicit activities as hacking".

"Most upsetting is that in the middle of this maelstrom are two young, innocent children," said the judge, adding that their interests had been "overshadowed completely".

When contacted, an AGC spokesman declined comment as the case is being investigated by the police.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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To view the judgment, click <here>.

Deputy application not always required: Forum

Straits Times
11 Sep 2014

WE THANK Mr John Yeo Kee Chiang ("Costly process to be appointed as deputy for mentally disabled child"; last Thursday) and Ms Betty Ho Peck Woon ("Make it easier to be deputy for mentally disabled people"; Tuesday) for their feedback.

The Mental Capacity Act allows an individual to plan ahead by signing a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) to appoint one or more trusted persons (called donees) to make decisions on his behalf in the event that he loses his mental capacity.

For adults without mental capacity (for example, those with severe autism) and who do not have LPAs, the Act allows caregivers to make routine decisions without the need for a Deputy application. These decisions include taking the family members to school, social activities, and clinics or hospitals for medical treatments.

However, where third-party legal transactions (for example, selling a house or opening and operating a bank account) are involved, a parent has to be appointed as a Deputy by the court to make such decisions on behalf of his adult son/daughter.

As a Deputy appointment entrusts the decision-making of an individual to another person, the court requires a medical report by a practising doctor certifying that the individual concerned lacks mental capacity.

We understand that the Deputy application can be onerous and costly for some parents of adult sons/daughters with mental disabilities. The Ministry of Social and Family Development is working with the courts to review the court processes to make such applications easier.

While naming a successor donee or deputy is not mandatory when making an LPA or Deputy application respectively, we understand the worry that some parents have regarding the lack of proxy decision-makers for their adult sons/daughters when they are no longer around.

The ministry is studying various options to address the needs of mentally incapacitated persons who do not have anyone to make decisions on their behalf.

Daniel Koh

The Public Guardian

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Changi/Batam maritime borders treaty signed

Business Times
04 Sep 2014
Lee U-wen

[SINGAPORE] Indonesia and Singapore have inked a landmark treaty that demarcates sea borders in the eastern part of the Strait of Singapore, in the area between Changi and Batam.

The pact was signed by Foreign Minister K Shanmugam and his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa at the Istana on Wednesday. The ceremony was witnessed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and visiting Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Speaking at a state banquet held in his honour, Dr Yudhoyono described the treaty - covering a 9.45 kilometre stretch - as an important one that sets a "new milestone" in bilateral relations between the two Asean neighbours.

"In a world marked by tension and dispute, with this treaty we are demonstrating that with strong political commitment, it is possible to achieve mutually acceptable solutions," he said.

A statement from Singapore's Foreign Affairs Ministry said that the treaty was a demonstration of how the two countries have been able to work together in areas of mutual interest, and further underscored the "excellent working relationship and bilateral ties".

This agreement will help Indonesia and Singapore to maintain sovereignty and enforce the law in their territorial waters. It will also strengthen cooperation in the fields of navigational safety, maritime affairs and fisheries, as well as prevent cross-border crime in the Strait of Singapore.

Technical discussions between the two nations began in Singapore in June 2011, with nine more rounds after that. The final meeting was held in Medan last month, when both sides reached a final agreement.

This is the second maritime boundary treaty which Singapore has signed with Indonesia under Dr Yudhoyono's administration. The first was in 2009, when then-foreign ministers George Yeo of Singapore and Hassan Wirajuda of Indonesia signed a deal that detailed boundaries in the western part of the Singapore Strait, between Sultan Shoal and Pulau Nipa.

In a separate development on Wednesday, the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise and Temasek Foundation have formed a training partnership with the Makassar City government in Indonesia.

This tie-up will see Singapore share its experience in urban, transportation and infrastructure planning. The 18-month programme will be supported by Temasek Foundation with a S$587,840 grant, to be co-funded by the Makassar City government for S$248,750.

Capacity-building workshops will start this month, and the plan is to enable Makassar City officials to apply what they learn to develop and customise solutions for the city's integrated master plan.

leeuwen@sph.com.sg

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S'pore welcomes Jakarta's move to ratify haze pact

Straits Times
17 Sep 2014
Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja

Indonesian officials hail decision as a new chapter in efforts to tackle issue

INDONESIA'S Parliament unanimously agreed to ratify the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, in a move officials hailed as a new chapter in the country's efforts to take a stronger lead in tackling an annual problem that has irked residents in affected areas and neighbouring countries.

"This is the right step for Indonesia to show that it is serious in addressing the transboundary haze caused by forest and plantation fires," Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya told Parliament yesterday. Ratification, he stressed, would benefit Indonesia the most as it would better protect citizens from the negative effects of forest fires and safeguard the country's natural resources.

All nine parties in the outgoing Parliament yesterday backed a Bill to ratify the agreement, 12 years after Indonesia signed it alongside the other nine Asean members - but failed to win approval for it from MPs until recently.

The Bill is expected to be formally signed into law by the President in the coming weeks, and after that an instrument of ratification will be deposited with the Asean secretary-general.

The House's reluctance in the past became a sticking point last year, when haze levels reached record highs in Riau as well as Malaysia and Singapore.

MPs had felt certain clauses could infringe the country's sovereignty, leaving Indonesia in the awkward position of being the only Asean member to hold out.

But the government has clarified that though the treaty obliged Indonesia to be responsible for responding rapidly to fires and cooperating with its neighbours, sovereignty was not negotiable.

Instead, the pact strengthened Indonesia's existing regulations and policies in dealing with fires.

"These responsibilities do not come with sanctions. Any differences among us (Asean members) will be settled amicably through discussions and consultation," Dr Balthasar added yesterday.

"Indonesia can make use of the human resources and equipment available within Asean countries," Mr Milton Pakpahan, a Democrat MP who helped to push the Bill through, told Parliament.

Singapore welcomed the Indonesian Parliament's decision to ratify the treaty, the Environment and Water Resources Ministry said in a statement yesterday.

It also said the ratification was timely, given the recent spike in the number of hot spots in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

"Singapore looks forward to closer cooperation with the Indonesian government and our Asean partners to tackle this recurrent problem," the ministry added.

Under the terms of the treaty, countries have to cooperate in taking measures to prevent, monitor and mitigate the haze by controlling the sources of fires, in exchanging information and technology, and in helping one another manage outbreaks.

Indonesia's Environment Ministry said yesterday that it had already begun taking measures in line with the Asean agreement.

Indonesia will also be starting cloud-seeding in the coming days to induce rain to douse forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

wahyudis@sph.com.sg

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'Auditors would've known of links to Xtron'

Straits Times
11 Sep 2014
Joyce Lim

No attempt by church to obfuscate close ties to music firm, says Kong Hee

THE auditors of City Harvest Church would have been fully aware of all its links to the music production company that church officials are accused of using as a vehicle to misuse church funds.

In his third day on the stand this week, church founder Kong Hee maintained there was never any attempt by them to obfuscate the close connections with Xtron Productions.

He said those who had oversight of the accounts of both the church and Xtron would have seen it was managing his wife Ho Yeow Sun's music career.

Together with five others, Kong is accused of misusing some $50 million of church funds to boost Ms Ho's music career and covering up the misuse by falsifying church accounts.

One of the accusations is that they purchased sham bonds in Xtron and another company, Firna, when the money was actually being used to bankroll Ms Ho's album launch.

Under re-examination by his lawyer Edwin Tong, Kong, 50, told the court that the church's auditor Baker Tilly TFW "would be very aware of the expenses incurred by Xtron in connection with the album production".

He said: "They would be aware of the management fees paid to Sun's manager. They would be aware of the travelling expenses. They would be aware of the advertising and promotional expenses. They would be aware of payment to the United States as well as payment to Asia."

They would also know that "Xtron at this point in time was making losses because the album was yet to be launched", added Kong.

Under questioning by Mr Tong, Kong said Xtron was incorporated in June 2003 and the minutes of a board meeting said Ms Ho "would no longer be managed by Attributes but by another artiste management company, to the best of my recollection".

Kong said auditors going through the minutes wanted to know who the new company managing Ms Ho was and were told by the church's former finance manager Serina Wee that it was Xtron.

Mr Tong asked if Ms Ho had an agreement with Xtron. Yes, Kong replied.

Mr Tong also took the senior pastor through his evidence given in previous court sessions, combing through e-mail and court transcripts, so he could furnish more details.

One transcript had Kong saying that a special audit in 2003 by the church's auditor confirmed church funds were never used to finance Ms Ho's music career.

"And I asked Brother Foong (Daw Ching) again, "Were church funds used? After all these years, are we still correct... in what we have said to our members?" Kong had said.

"And Brother Foong said openly to us. He said 'no church funds were used because church funds were invested.'"

Kong told the court the special audit was done after a complaint by a church member, so he wanted a thorough investigation into how the Crossover album had been funded in the previous year.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong interrupted the questioning at one point to note that the auditors themselves should be asked if they were aware of all these details and not the witness.

joycel@sph.com.sg

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Ex-baggage handlers acquitted of theft due to unreliable evidence

TODAY
04 Sep 2014
Neo Chai Chin

SINGAPORE — Two former baggage handlers convicted of stealing jewellery from passengers on India-bound flights were acquitted yesterday by the High Court.

In overturning the convictions of Mr Nagas Arumugam, 57, and Mr Geyabalan K Ramiah, 56, Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon said the trial judge had placed undue weight on the “unreliable and inadequate” evidence of their supposed accomplice and prosecution witness Selvakumar Kanniappan.

The two men, who worked for Asia-Pacific Star, a subsidiary of SATS, were sentenced by the State Courts in January for theft. At the time, the prosecution said the men had targeted flights to India as they knew the baggage would usually contain gold and other valuables.

Mr Nagas — who was known as the “skipper” of the team — was sentenced to eight months’ jail, while Mr Geyabalan was sentenced to six months’ jail. Selvakumar and another man said to have been their accomplice, Ashley Francis, were earlier convicted and jailed between nine and 11 weeks for the offences committed in 2010 and 2011.

Yesterday, defence lawyers cited inconsistencies in Selvakumar’s evidence. For instance, he had pleaded guilty to a charge of stealing Indian rupees for which no other accused persons were involved, yet had insisted the thefts could only be committed with the other accomplices, said Mr Nagas’ lawyers, Mr Subhas Anandan, Mr Sunil Sudheesan and Ms Diana Ngiam.

Mr Geyabalan’s lawyer K Mathialahan argued that the trial judge had not duly considered the possibility that others could have committed the theft.

Both men told reporters after their acquittal that they wanted their former jobs back. Mr Geyabalan said he is now doing contract cleaning work. Mr Nagas, a part-time driver, said he had borrowed from relatives to pay his legal bills and that the three-year case had embarrassed his family.

chaichin@mediacorp.com.sg

Copyright 2014 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Singapore lauded for low pre-trial remand numbers

Straits Times
17 Sep 2014
K.C. Vijayan

Global survey cites 'exceptionally low' S'pore figures, together with Finland's, as model

SINGAPORE'S "exceptionally low" pre-trial remand numbers have been held up, together with Finland's, as a model for others to follow.

A new US-based study on the use of pre-trial detention worldwide highlights the Republic's progress in the past decade, at a time when the overuse of pre-trial detention elsewhere is a rising concern and in need of urgent reform.

Titled "Presumption of Guilt: The Global Overuse of Pre-trial Detention", the report published recently by the Open Society Justice Initiative - part of a network founded by billionaire investor George Soros - is the first global survey of the damage done by the overuse of pre- trial detention. The New York-based Open Society Foundations, the organisation that is part of a network that runs the Open Society Justice Initiative, works to shape public policy to promote democratic governance, legal and social reform.

Written by Mr Martin Schoentiech, the report argues that more than 14 million people a year are affected by the "massive and excessive" use of pre-trial detention around the world.

It also argues that the overuse of pre- trial detention affects economic well- being, public health and the rule of law. Among other things, it highlighted a case where one murder suspect was remanded behind bars in India for 38 years before being ordered to be freed by the court in 2006.

Earlier this month, in a landmark move recognising the problem of pre-trial detention, India's top court ordered its prisons to release all inmates awaiting trial who had been behind bars for half the maximum term without trial.

"Virtually every country in the world could benefit from reducing its pre-trial detention population," says the report.

It notes that European taxpayers spend some US$18 billion (S$22.8 billion) annually on keeping such inmates behind bars, while in the United States it costs on average more to detain a juvenile than the annual tuition cost at Harvard University.

"Fortunately, positive reforms are possible. Both Finland and Singapore, for example, have shown that proactive and coherent policies can limit the unnecessary use of pre-trial detention," says the report.

It attributes Singapore's success to a sustained policy initiative to curb a prison population that peaked at 18,000 in 2002, declining to 13,000 some eight years later.

It notes that the use of pre-trial detention also declined at the end of the same period, forming less than 8 per cent of the prison population, which is "an exceptionally low proportion by global standards".

While almost a third of the world's 10 million kept behind bars in 2012 were in pre-trial detention, Singapore had 8.8 per cent as a proportion of its prison admissions for that year - the third-lowest on the list.

The report also notes that Singapore and Finland shared some common features in their political and social infrastructure which keep prison numbers down.

Among the reasons are policy continuity, a strong state apparatus and a qualified, experienced civil service.

These background factors translate to clear policies and processes to deal with defendants awaiting trial in different ways, among other things, says the report.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

ADV: SIATP and LexisNexis Cordially Invites You...

Singapore Law Watch
10 Sep 2014
LexisNexis

Costly process to be appointed as deputy for mentally disabled child: Forum

Straits Times
04 Sep 2014

I AM the father of an autistic adult who has never had the mental capacity to make decisions on matters of finance or welfare.

Under the Mental Capacity Act, I need to be appointed by the court as a "deputy" to act for her.

The website of the Office of the Public Guardian advises people who wish to be appointed as deputies to seek legal assistance.

So I went to a modest-looking law firm in an HDB estate, and was quoted a minimum fee of $10,000 plus expenses.

I was expecting to pay no more than a few hundred dollars as I was simply doing what the authorities required.

I do not blame the lawyers as this is something quite new and they may not be familiar with the filing process.

My child had been diagnosed with autism at the age of three. She has no earning capacity and no assets in her name. I have always acted as her "deputy" in all matters, down to the colour of her socks.

It is something I have always done naturally and dutifully as a parent. But I am now being asked to pay a tidy sum for the right to continue to make decisions on her welfare.

The Act must be amended to provide for parents and siblings of people who have entered adulthood without ever having attained mental capacity, to be automatically recognised as their deputies.

Can the Office of the Public Guardian assign legal officers to assist parents like me?

A well-intended piece of legislation should not cause additional hardship for people struggling to care for severely disabled children.

John Yeo Kee Chiang

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Match-fixing suspect contests detention order

Straits Times
17 Sep 2014

DAN Tan Seet Eng, the alleged ringleader of an international match-fixing syndicate, is contesting his detention without trial.

Represented by lawyer Hamidul Haq, Tan last month filed a court order seeking a judicial review of his detention.

He has been in detention since last October, after being nabbed in an islandwide raid conducted by police and anti-graft officers on Sept 17.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs confirmed with The Straits Times yesterday that an application for a review of the detention had been received. "The application is now being processed by the Attorney-General's Chambers," she added.

Tan, who is reportedly also wanted in Italy and Hungary, has been labelled by Interpol as the "leader of the world's most notorious match-fixing syndicate". The Singaporean businessman's alleged ring is said to have rigged over 150 matches in countries including Hungary, Finland and Nigeria.

The order to detain him was issued by Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act, which allows for suspects to be detained without trial.

In a written reply to parliamentary questions, he explained last October that the Act is used "as a last resort in cases where accomplices and witnesses dare not testify against criminals in court, for fear of reprisal". Detention orders are reviewed annually.

Tan's lawyer Hamidul, from Rajah & Tann, told The Straits Times last night: "His detention should be reviewed by the courts as such cases (referring to match-fixing cases) should not be within the domain of detention without trial."

JOYCE LIM

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Church clears a hurdle to review minister's order: Compensation of pregnant employee

Straits Times
10 Sep 2014
Selina Lum

A CHURCH that was ordered by the Government to compensate a pregnant employee it had sacked for adultery has removed a roadblock to getting that order overturned.

The Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) yesterday succeeded in striking out an appeal filed by the Attorney-General, who opposes its challenge to the Manpower Minister's order.

In allowing the church this, the Court of Appeal said the right of appeal of the Attorney-General was not automatic but required permission from the court.

The High Court is scheduled to hear the Attorney-General's application for permission to appeal next week.

Only if it is granted can the Attorney-General continue with the appeal. If not, the mega-church's request for a judicial review of the order will proceed.

The case concerns an administrative worker at the church who was fired in 2012 on grounds of adultery.

The woman, who was pregnant at the time, complained to the Manpower Ministry about being sacked without notice or compensation.

In July last year, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, then the Acting Manpower Minister, decided she had been dismissed without sufficient cause and ordered the church to pay her salary and maternity benefits of about $7,000.

The FCBC then applied to the High Court for permission to start proceedings for a judicial review challenging Mr Tan's decision. This was granted on May 29 this year.

The next day, the Attorney- General's Chambers (AGC) applied for permission to appeal against the High Court's decision. But it argued at the same time that the Attorney-General actually had the automatic right to appeal. The High Court adjourned the hearing, saying the question of whether permission was required had to be determined by the apex court.

The AGC went ahead and filed its appeal on June 11.

This was followed a week later by the FCBC's application to strike out the appeal on the grounds that permission had not been given.

Yesterday, it got the decision it wanted when the Court of Appeal said the Attorney-General, as the guardian of the public interest, had the right to disagree with a High Court decision to grant a judicial review - but only with the permission of the court.

State Counsel Aurill Kam had contended that the decision to grant judicial review was "appealable as of right". But FCBC lawyer Dominic Chan argued that an automatic appeal would mean two rounds of prolonged arguments before getting to the actual hearing.

selinal@sph.com.sg

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Credit Suisse fails in bid to dismiss suit by S'pore wealth client

Business Times
03 Sep 2014
Andrea Tan

This Bloomberg article was first published on 3 September 2014 in the Singapore English broadsheet, The Business Times.
SLW obtained permission to reproduce the article to give the legal community a broader view of legal reports from various news syndicates.

[SINGAPORE] Credit Suisse Group AG has lost a bid to dismiss a lawsuit by a former private wealth client who is accusing the bank's Singapore unit of failing to explain the risks of a complex investment product.

Former stockbroker Koh Kim Teck sued the unit for US$26 million, claiming that it gave him too little time to raise collateral in October 2008 after he suffered losses from "knock-out discount accumulators", derivatives that commit investors to buying securities over a certain period.

Credit Suisse called the complaint frivolous because the Singapore resident is pursuing it in his personal capacity when it was his company, Smiling Sun Ltd, that had the banking relationship, according to court papers.

Singapore High Court assistant registrar Paul Chan rejected Credit Suisse's request for the case to be thrown out on that basis and ordered the Zurich-based bank to present a defence by Sept 11 unless it appeals, according to an order filed on Monday.

Edna Lam, a Singapore-based spokeswoman at Credit Suisse, declined to comment in an e-mail. Mr Koh's lawyers at Shook Lin & Bok also declined to comment.

"The extraordinary profits and/or commission to be gained" made the bankers disregard their duties to provide Mr Koh with enough information about the risks, he claimed in the lawsuit. They advised the Malaysian citizen to consider the investment products after he received more than US$20 million from selling properties in Kuala Lumpur, he said in court papers.

After the investments tanked, the bank gave him four hours to put up US$5.7 million in collateral and closed his account, he added.

Credit Suisse is the fourth-biggest wealth manager by assets, according to an annual ranking by Scorpio Partnership, a London-based consultancy.

Used with permission of Bloomberg L.P. Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved.

Hearing focuses on buying of 'palm oil': City Harvest trial

Straits Times
17 Sep 2014
Selina Lum

It's code for Suntec stake that church wanted to buy

THE City Harvest Church (CHC) trial yesterday was dominated by discussions on the purchase of "palm oil" - the church's code name for the Suntec convention centre back in 2009 when it was hoping to buy a stake in the property.

Church finance manager Sharon Tan said the reason the church had pumped funds into Xtron was for the purpose of buying a stake in Suntec.

Xtron was the vehicle it would use as the church did not want to be seen as vying for a commercial property, she said. The money for the purchase would be paid to Xtron as advance "rent" and the church would then "lease" the property from it.

According to Tan, the purpose of delinking Xtron from the church was also for this - so that it did not look as though it was the church that was buying Suntec which would jeopardise its chances of doing so. The code words were used for the same reason - to keep the transactions confidential so as not to jeopardise the purchase, she added.

Tan is among six, including founding pastor Kong Hee, accused of misusing $50 million in church funds to boost the music career of Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun and covering up the misuse.

The prosecution has alleged that all the accused, except Tan, funnelled money from the church's building fund into sham bond investments in Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna. The prosecution contends that four of them, including Tan, then devised a series of transactions to clear the sham bonds off CHC's accounts in order to throw auditors off the scent. These "round-tripping" transactions made it look as if Xtron and Firna had redeemed the sham bonds when, in reality, the redemptions were financed with church funds.

They include a $12 million payment from CHC to Xtron, which Tan said was advance "rent" for the Suntec property it intended to buy.

Tan's lawyer, Senior Counsel Kannan Ramesh, also suggested yesterday that there was a legitimate reason the bonds were redeemed - it was the church's external auditor who had suggested getting rid of them. He took her through a meeting in April 2009 between the church's new auditor, Mr Sim Guan Seng, and board member John Lam as well as deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng.

Sharon Tan said Mr Sim "did not like" the church's bond investments in Xtron which he felt complicated the accounts. She said Mr Sim was "relentless" in his view that CHC and Xtron were obviously related and told them to "clear" the bonds off the church's books. Told the payment would be given as rent, Tan said she had "no doubts" about the legitimacy of the plan, as it was just a "reclassification" in the books, from investment to pre-payment. The church board was very serious about buying "palm oil" and had discussed using Xtron to secure Suntec, she added.

selinal@sph.com.sg

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Understanding property rights - from joint tenancy to removal of names from tenancy

Lianhe Zaobao
10 Sep 2014
Poh Lay Hoon

This article was first published on 31 August 2014 in the Singapore Mandarin broadsheet, Lianhe Zaobao.
SLW commissioned a translation to give the legal community a view of legal reports from different Singapore news outlets.


Most people who buy property register it as a joint tenancy, especially married couples. The advantage of this approach is that should one spouse pass away, full ownership of the property will pass directly to the surviving spouse without the need to appoint a lawyer to handle the procedures.

However, a joint tenancy can also bring problems. For example, where a joint tenancy involves a mother and son, and the son passes away first, there is nothing to stop the mother from evicting the daughter-in-law if they fail to get along.

In some cases, a co-owner can convert a joint tenancy into a tenancy-in-common to safeguard his or her own interests.

Is the consent of the joint tenant needed when one changes the form of co-ownership?

Lianhe Zaobao checked with some property agents and home owners and discovered that quite a number hold the misconception that a change in the form of co-ownership requires the consent of all of the co-owners.

Some home owners were even unclear about the difference between joint tenancy and tenancy-in-common.

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) amended the regulations in 1993, allowing a co-owner to unilaterally sever the joint tenancy by way of declaration, thereby converting the joint tenancy into a tenancy-in-common with equal shares between/among the co-owners.

The High Court heard two cases involving disputes between co-owners of HDB flats this year. This feature examines these two cases to explain and discuss the significance and impact of changing the form of co-ownership of property.


There are two forms of property co-ownership; a joint tenancy and a tenancy-in-common. The biggest difference between the two is that when one co-owner dies, the ownership of the property cannot be severed in one case, but can be severed in the other.

In joint tenancies, the rule of survivorship takes effect when one co-owner dies. This means that the share in the property held by the deceased will automatically be vested in the survivor, and will not be considered part of the estate to be handled in accordance with the will.

For tenancies-in-common, the share in the property will not automatically go to the other co-owners as every co-owner holds a distinct share in the property. A co-owner can thus bequeath his or her share in the property to a beneficiary through a will. Should there be no will, the share in the property owned by the deceased will be dealt with in accordance with the Intestate Succession Act.

HDB only handles cases where all co-owners agree to the change in the form of co-ownership

Of the approximately 900,000 flats in Singapore, around 30% are tenancies-in-common, while 70% are joint tenancies.

With regard to the conversion of joint tenancies to tenancies-in-common, an HDB spokesperson revealed that the agency saw an average of 155 cases a year between 2010 and 2013. All of the co-owners in these cases had consented to the change.

HDB only handles cases where all of the co-owners agree to the change in the form of co-ownership. "In the case of a severance of a joint tenancy without the consent of the other joint-tenant, the flat owner has to engage a private solicitor to act for him or her in the transaction. The private lawyers will be able to advise on the fees and process. "

The spokesperson also revealed that for HDB shops, more than half (around 8600) are sold shops, of which around 35% are held under joint tenancy. From 2010 to 2013, HDB saw an average of two cases per year where the holding type was converted from joint tenancy. These only included cases where all co-owners consented to the severance.

SLA: Co-owners can unilaterally sever joint tenancy through a declaration

For private properties, an SLA spokesperson said that there was an average of 173 applications to sever joint tenancies per year in the past five years. There have been 122 applications in the first eight months of this year.

"Where the properties are owned by two or more owners, 86% are owned in joint tenancies while the remaining 14% are tenancies-in-common.”

In 1993, SLA amended the regulations to allow co-owners to unilaterally sever the joint tenancy by way of a written declaration. In other words, by converting a joint tenancy into a tenancy-in-common, ownership of the property is split equally with the other joint tenant(s).

Should a co-owner feel that he or she is entitled to a larger share, the matter can be brought to court.

Ms Zhang, 40, a property agent who declined to provide her full name, said: "I had always thought that converting a joint tenancy to a tenancy-in-common requires all co-owners to sign their consent. To be honest, these cases are very rare so I am not very clear about them. I did not know that the change can be made unilaterally. "

The SLA spokesperson said that an application for a change in the form of co-ownership can be carried out by downloading a form at the SLA website (www.sla.gov.sg>registering your property>forms). The applicant(s) must complete and sign the declaration in the presence of a Commissioner for Oaths.

If the application is not made by all of the joint tenants, the applicant(s) will need to serve a copy of the application on the remaining joint tenants either personally or by registered post.  The registration fees for lodgement of a private property and a HDB flat are $68.30 and $38.30 respectively.

Amolat Singh: Form of co-ownership should fit one’s circumstances

When a property, whether private or HDB, is purchased by a married couple or a parent and child, most will register it as a joint tenancy.

However, lawyers advise that one can consider changing the form of co-ownership based on changes to one's own situation.

Amolat Singh (Amolat & Partners) said that co-owners need to think carefully about how to safeguard their own interests, especially in cases where a couple finds that their marriage is deteriorating or where one co-owner has a health problem or serious illness.

He noted that the law allows unilateral severance of joint tenancy. Once severed, the co-owners will all have equal ownership of the property. That is to say, if there are two co-owners, each will have a 50% share. If there are three, each will hold a third, and so on. If any of the co-owners disagree with an equal split of ownership, he or she can bring the matter to court.

Several years ago, Amolat had advised a male client to change the form of co-ownership of his condominium to safeguard his own interests. At the time, the client had asked Amolat to help him with his divorce from his second wife and had discovered that he had liver cancer with only four months to live.

The second marriage of the client produced no children but he had a son and a daughter with his first wife. The children did not have much contact with the father but after finding out about his condition, they understood that their father needed them and often brought him to his clinic visits, staying by his side and discharging their filial duty.

The biggest asset owned by the client was a luxury apartment at Newton that he co-owned with his wife under a joint tenancy. He could not split off his share in the condominium in his will; his share would have automatically transferred to his second wife after his death.

Knowing that his client desired to leave some inheritance for his children, Amolat informed him that he would not be able to complete divorce procedures within four months. However, he could change the joint tenancy to a tenancy-in-common.

His second wife did not object as she had only paid 30% of the cost of the property. After the procedures for the change were completed, the client wrote his will, bequeathing his half of the condominium to his children. He passed away four months later.

Norman Ho: Tenancy-in-common more problematic for married couples

Lawyer Norman Ho of Rodyk & Davidson, who specialises in property matters, will explain the difference between joint tenancy and tenancy-in-common and the pros and cons of each arrangement to his clients who are buying property.

He said that those who jointly buy a property for investment will generally choose tenancy-in-common based on the proportion of how much they invest. However, if the co-owners are a married couple, he will usually suggest joint tenancy as the procedures are simpler and more convenient.

He explained that if a married couple holds a property under a tenancy-in-common arrangement, the procedures are more complicated and troublesome when one party dies. This is because one will need to get a grant of probate or letter of administration from the court for the property to be dealt with by the executor or administrator of the estate, regardless of whether or not the deceased has left a will.

This will involve the issue of whether or not to sell the property. The administrator or executor of the estate or the beneficiary may not want to sell the property, and the other co-owner(s) cannot force him or her to sell. And even if he or she is willing to sell, it may not be easy to find a buyer who is willing to buy a part share of a property. As the situation is more complicated, lawyers often need to be engaged.

He also noted that tenancies-in-common can be converted to joint tenancies but the consent of all co-owners is required. Once the conversion to joint tenancy is made, all co-owners will have an equal share of the property. However, such conversions are rare.


Two elderly ladies fail in their lawsuits to remove names from joint tenancies

The High Court dealt with two cases this year where the plaintiffs sought to have the names of relatives removed from the tenancies.

The plaintiffs in both cases were elderly women. One sought to terminate a joint tenancy she had with her daughters while the other sought to terminate a joint tenancy with her granddaughter.

Case 1

Goh  Eileen @ Chia Yoke Mui Eileen, 92, had claimed that she and her husband, Goh Chin Chye, had added the names of her two daughters Goh Mei Ling Yvonne and Goh  Meich’ang Yvette to the ownership of their five-room Clementi flat under misrepresentation and duress. Chia had requested that her two daughters be removed as co-owners.

However, the two daughters alleged that their brothers Eric Goh and Evan Goh were the instigators behind the lawsuit, who had persuaded their mother to go to court and take the position that "I want my flat returned to me".

Goh Chin Chye was a pioneer in the local scouting movement and passed away in March last year at the age of 94. The flat had a market value of around $700,000.

The High Court ruled that there was no "misrepresentation or duress" and that the elderly couple had signed the document voluntarily, assigning part ownership of the flat to their two daughters. Chia's application to the Court of Appeal in July this year was dismissed.

If the mother and two daughters continue to have joint tenancy, Chia's share in the property will automatically be vested in the two daughters after her death and the two sons will not be able to get anything.

However, according to sources, Chia has already unilaterally severed the joint tenancy and has converted it to a tenancy-in-common, protecting her one-third share. She has also prepared a will.

As the content of the will is not known, it is unclear whether, on Chia's death, the flat will need to be sold or whether the names of her beneficiaries will be added as co-owners.

Case 2

Mak Saw Ching@ Muk Sow, 83, added the name of her granddaughter as joint tenant of her flat following the death of her husband. Some years later, after seeing her granddaughter side with her daughter-in-law, who was preparing to divorce her son, she lost confidence in the granddaughter and applied to the High Court to remove her granddaughter's name as co-owners.

The two-room flat at Commonwealth Close has a market value of around $280,000. Mak currently holds the flat as a tenancy in common with her granddaughter Yam Hui Min, Barbara Rebecca, with each having a half share. Mak took legal action to remove the name of her granddaughter and recover the half share held by Yam.

Yam, in turn, accused her grandmother of being "brainwashed" by her father, who she said had instigated the court case and asked her grandmother to apply to the High Court to remove her name. "My grandmother is only a puppet in the hands of my father." She claimed that when her grandmother decided to transfer the flat to her, it was meant as a gift, so that she could have full ownership eventually.

Mak has a son and a daughter, both of who are married. In 2009, after her husband passed away, she became the sole owner of the flat. A year later, she added her granddaughter's name as joint tenant. She claimed that her son already owned a flat and could not have another one in his name. She thus took the advice of a staff from HDB to make this arrangement. She said that she had no intention of giving the flat as a gift to her granddaughter but only wanted her granddaughter to have custody. She had wanted her granddaughter to sell the flat after she died so that the proceeds could be given to her son.

In March last year, she engaged a lawyer to convert the joint tenancy to a tenancy-in-common to ensure that at least her half share in the property would be protected when she dies. "I am already very old and timing is critical for me. I did not intend to give my granddaughter 50% of the ownership of the flat. "

Mak's application was dismissed by the High Court in July this year. She has lodged an appeal.

pohlh@sph.com.sg

Source: Lianhe Zaobao © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Apex court overturns High Court acquittal in corruption case

TODAY
03 Sep 2014
Kelly Ng

SINGAPORE — In a rare occurrence, a High Court decision to quash a conviction has been overturned by the Court of Appeal.

Yesterday’s ruling by the highest court of the land on the corruption case of former Seagate Technology International director, Henry Teo Chu Ha, throws into question the fate of a man implicated in a separate graft case.

Both men — the other is Leng Kah Poh, a former IKEA food and beverage manager — had had their convictions reversed by Justice Choo Han Teck, which led to prosecutors seeking clarity from the appellate court on the judge’s interpretation of corruption laws here. The Court of Appeal’s decision on Leng’s case is pending.

Teo had been convicted of 12 counts of corruption after he paid S$6,000 for 20,000 shares in Biforst in 2004, before the firm won contracts with his then-employer. But he successfully appealed against his sentence of six months’ jail and S$576,225 penalty — the amount in dividend payouts he got from Biforst — with Justice Choo noting that the prosecution had not proven that the payment for the shares was a sham.

In its grounds of decision released last week — after the Attorney-General’s Chambers filed a criminal reference on Justice Choo’s interpretation of the Prevention of Corruption Act — the Court of Appeal overruled the High Court judge’s finding, saying the Act covers cleverer and more sophisticated as well as devious schemes, such as in Teo’s case.

Urging the appellate court to restore Teo’s conviction and sentence yesterday, deputy public prosecutor David Chew called Teo’s transaction corrupt to the core and argued that the court should uphold its power to do what is just to the case. “Just as the court has the power to (overturn) wrongful convictions, it has the power to (overturn) a wrongful acquittal.”

In response, Teo’s lawyer, Mr Bachoo Mohan Singh, said the court had never exercised its power to restore convictions. “If we send an acquitted man back to prison, we would be the first country in the Commonwealth to do this. I don’t think this is a uniqueness we want Singapore to be known for.”

But Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang questioned if it would be just to let the accused walk free: “Are you saying that if in fact your client is guilty and the district judge was correct in his decision, it will be just to say your client can walk away with no sanction at all? Is this what we want to be known for?”

The judge also clarified that in practice, the court has seen it fit to restore convictions and has done so for at least two cases in the recent past.

One of these was Rangasamy Subramaniam’s case in 2011, where the accused’s conviction for drink-driving was reversed on appeal in the High Court, but subsequently restored by the apex court, upon the public prosecutor raising legal questions of public interest in the case.

The court ordered that Teo’s original conviction and sentence stand. Teo is on bail and will have to surrender himself on Sept 16.

In quashing Leng’s conviction, Justice Choo had found that, legally, it was not a case of corruption, as he was one of the masterminds behind the idea to rip off his then-employer. Leng had pocketed S$2.3 million in a plot with two others involving inflated food contracts with a supplier.

Justice Choo’s decision also saw prosecutors raising legal questions of public interest to the appellate court.

kellyng@mediacorp.com.sg

Copyright 2014 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Electronic charts still not widely used

Business Times
17 Sep 2014
Malminderjit Singh

About 5,000 tankers have until July to adopt system

[SINGAPORE] The majority of ships in the global tanker fleet have yet to adopt the Electronic Chart Display & Information System (ECDIS), according to data published by the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO).

Amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (Solas), an international maritime safety treaty, requires mandatory carriage of ECDIS from July 1, 2015, for all tankers over 3,000 gross tonnes, apart from permitted exemptions.

More than 8,500 tankers will be required to comply with these rules and with less than 10 months to go, the UKHO revealed, 58 per cent of these ships do not yet use an electronic navigational chart (ENC) service.

The amendments to the Solas Convention requiring the mandatory carriage of ECDIS were adopted in 2009.

To date, approximately 3,600 tankers, or 42 per cent of the global tanker fleet, use an ENC service. This leaves almost 5,000 tankers that do not use an ENC service and therefore may not have the ECDIS installed.

The UKHO data also revealed a significant divergence in ENC use among different tanker sizes and types.

Overall, 23 per cent of the global product tanker fleet of approximately 1,700 vessels use an ENC service, compared to 44 per cent of crude tankers and 63 per cent of LNG tankers.

With less than a year to go before these amendments to the Solas Convention come into force, owners and operators of tankers that are not yet ready to comply need to ensure they have a plan in place to adopt ECDIS in a thorough and diligent manner.

Whether it is the physical installation of ECDIS on board, the delivery of type-specific training for crew or the necessary revisions to bridge policies and procedures, it is a considerable undertaking.

Since launching the global ECDIS seminar programme in 2011, the UKHO has provided free expert guidance on the ECDIS transition to more than 2,300 delegates.

By the end of 2014 that is projected to exceed 3,400 delegates in 55 locations, as it helps professionals in the shipping industry, including managers, owners, ship personnel, regulators and auditors, to achieve this important requirement.

"The transition to ECDIS is a very complex and significant undertaking, whether it is for a single ship or an entire fleet," said Paul Hailwood, an expert on ECDIS and integrated bridge operations who delivers the ECDIS seminars.

"This data on the current state of ENC use across the global tanker fleet reveals that there is still a long way to go in a short period of time if the fleet is to be fully ready to comply with the Solas regulations, even allowing for exemptions and the grace period until a ship's first survey date."

He added: "There are also wider implications for the ability of the industry to deliver a transition to ECDIS on this scale in such a short period of time, given the inevitable constraints on capacity, such as crew training places and the availability of engineers to manage the installation process."

msingh@sph.com.sg

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Judge on why he didn't order rioter caned

Straits Times
10 Sep 2014
K.C. Vijayan

Worker instigated others to throw stones, but had no role in damaging public vehicles

A SENIOR district judge has explained why he chose not to impose caning on a Little India rioter who had instigated others to throw stones, saying it had not been justified in his case.

It came as the public prosecutor lodged an appeal against the 25-month jail term that Senior District Judge Ong Hian Sun handed down to Indian national Samiyappan Sellathurai, 42, last month.

The public prosecutor is asking the High Court for three strokes of the cane, in the first appeal to emerge from the 18 convictions over last December's Little India riot.

In judgment grounds released last week, Senior District Judge Ong wrote: "Each case must be decided on its own facts, and the sentence meted out must fit the punishment for the crime."

The prosecution had argued that three out of five cases it cited for rioting in Little India had been awarded three strokes of the cane, in addition to jail terms.

Assistant Public Prosecutor Dillon Kok argued that Samiyappan's culpability was higher than that in the other two cases in which caning was not imposed, that of Moorthy Kabildev, 25, and Mongan Anbalagan, 41.

But Samiyappan's lawyer, Mr Rajan Supramaniam, argued that he did not show the same "brutal violence" as some of the other offenders who flipped over police vehicles. He added that caning would be "unduly harsh" as his role was not even as "culpable" as that of the other two men.

Samiyappan had worked in Singapore for 16 years and had a clean record before the incident. He also showed genuine remorse, the judge noted. He said those who received caning committed acts that were "far more heinous and egregious", such as causing severe damage to public vehicles.

The judge added that they displayed more "insidious conduct" than Samiyappan, and the fact that he instigated those around him to throw projectiles at police vehicles per se was not sufficient grounds to have him caned. He noted that Samiyappan had left the scene before the flipping or torching of vehicles occurred.

The judge said that in comparing sentences between different offenders, the courts would take a "global view" of the circumstances of the offence rather than focus on the offender's particular acts.

He cited the remarks of then High Court judge V. K. Rajah when dealing with a 2005 case which stressed that no two cases will be "completely symmetrical or identical".

At the time, Justice Rajah, who is now the Attorney-General, had called for "individualised justice" that required the use of "sound discretion". He had added: "General benchmarks, while highly significant, should not, by their very definition, be viewed as binding or fossilised judicial rules, inducing a mechanical application."

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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Tussle over widow's $40m assets turns ugly

Straits Times
03 Sep 2014
Carolyn Khew & Toh Yong Chuan

A SEVEN-HOUR stand-off between an 87-year-old Singaporean widow and a 34-year-old woman from China ended yesterday after the younger woman agreed to leave the widow's $30 million bungalow, where she had stayed for a year without rent.

It was the latest twist in a saga that began in 2008, after the widow, retired physiotherapist Chung Khin Chun, met the Chinese woman's tour guide husband while on holiday in China.

The 40-year-old man, Mr Yang Yin, later got close to Madam Chung and, in 2009, moved into her Gerald Crescent bungalow, allegedly took over her assets worth $40 million and brought his family to live with him there.

Madam Chung's niece, 60-year-old travel agency owner Hedy Mok, started court proceedings to revoke Mr Yang's guardianship of her aunt's $40 million assets earlier this year.

She turned up at the bungalow yesterday at 2pm to demand that his wife, two-year-old son and eight-year-daughter move out because they were trespassing. Mr Yang is currently in Japan.

Mrs Yang initially refused. The police were called and five officers later turned up to defuse the tension.

Mrs Yang later agreed to leave the house on the advice of her lawyer. She told The Straits Times before leaving that Madam Chung had invited her husband to live with her.

"My husband has looked after the old grandmother for five years," said Mrs Yang.

But in an affidavit last month, Madam Mok said: "The defendant now has sole authority and control over my aunt's assets and personal welfare, leaving my aunt in a vulnerable situation. I deeply fear for my aunt's safety and well-being as the defendant has shown that he has neglected her welfare and is merely manipulating her for his own benefit."

Court papers allege that Mr Yang started asking for money to be sent to his bank account in Hangzhou, China, starting from small sums of $4,000, which grew over time to $40,000.

He also asked to be sponsored for an English course in Singapore which costs $4,000 and took a $1,000 monthly allowance from Madam Chung when he was here.

"It is patently clear that the defendant (Mr Yang) has acted dishonestly," alleged Madam Mok.

Madam Chung came from a wealthy family. Formerly from Indonesia, she was a qualified physiotherapist who had studied in Australia. That was also where she met her late husband Chou Sip King, a general practitioner. The couple are childless.

Madam Chung made the news in 2004 when she sold her 39,000 sq ft garden for a record $7.6 million. She retained the bungalow and continued to live in it.

A year after her husband died in May 2007, she and a close friend went on a holiday to China. She met Mr Yang in Beijing.

After the holiday, the duo kept in touch. He would call her and have long conversations with her.

Mr Yang visited Singapore in 2009 and stayed at Madam Chung's bungalow.

According to court papers obtained by The Straits Times, Madam Mok alleges that Mr Yang, who went to obtain permanent residency here, got the old woman to appoint him as her legal guardian under the Mental Capacity Act in 2012.

Company records also show that he is a director of Young Music and Dance Studio, with the address registered to the bungalow.

Madam Mok alleges that Mr Yang forged Madam Chung's signature in 2011 to obtain an insurance document. She took her aunt out of the bungalow two weeks ago, before returning yesterday.

The stand-off attracted curious neighbours. "I knew something unusual was going on," a neighbour was overheard whispering to another.

Madam Chung sat through the stand-off in Madam Mok's Mercedes-Benz, oblivious to the drama unfolding in her house.

When The Straits Times first visited her on Monday, she struggled to recall dates and details. "Cannot remember," she said.

But her eyes lit up when she noticed that the reporter had a stiff shoulder. "Do this exercise at least 10 times," she said, flexing her arms. "You will feel better."

Mr Yang has asked the court for adjournment to respond to the allegations.

kcarolyn@sph.com.sg

tohyc@sph.com.sg

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4 appointed judicial commissioners

Straits Times
16 Sep 2014
Aw Cheng Wei

FOUR new faces were appointed yesterday by President Tony Tan Keng Yam as judicial commissioners. They are Ms Valerie Thean, 45, Mr Aedit Abdullah, 44, Ms Hoo Sheau Peng, also 44, and Associate Professor Debbie Ong Siew Ling, 48, said the Prime Minister's Office.

Judicial commissioners have the same powers and functions as Supreme Court judges to preside in the High Court, but are appointed for a specific period.

All will serve three years except Prof Ong, a law don, who will serve two.

Ms Thean will also be Presiding Judge of the Family Justice Courts from Oct 1. The mother of three is currently Senior District Judge of the Family and Juvenile Justice Division of the State Courts.

The only academic of the four, Prof Ong teaches at the law faculty and was awarded the Singapore Academy of Law Merit Award and the Legal Aid Bureau Amicus Award last year.

Mr Aedit, who was Senior Counsel at the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) for two years, most recently defended Singapore's decision to retain Section 377A criminalising sex between men, earlier this year.

As a district judge, he sentenced former National Kidney Foundation CEO T.T. Durai to three months' jail for fraud.

Ms Hoo is also from the AGC and is currently its Civil Division's Deputy Chief Counsel (Advisory and Administration). She has been in the legal service for more than 20 years.

Both Ms Thean and Ms Hoo will assume their new roles on Sept 30, and Mr Aedit and Prof Ong on Nov 17.

Attorney-General V.K. Rajah said in a statement that Ms Hoo and Mr Aedit have been "key members of the AGC leadership and have contributed enormously to make AGC what it is today".

Judicial commissioners were introduced in 1986 to get senior lawyers in private practice on the Bench to help clear the backlog of Supreme Court cases.

They can be named full judges and remain on the Supreme Court's Bench until they turn 65.

With these new appointments, Singapore will have eight judicial commissioners and 14 judges, including Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.

awcw@sph.com.sg

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Tough set of three measures: Remote Gambling Bill

Straits Times
10 Sep 2014
Lim Yan Liang & Priscilla Goy

SINGAPORE will have one of the toughest sets of laws worldwide against online gambling if the Remote Gambling Bill comes to pass.

The three main measures proposed to restrict remote gambling - which includes mobile and Internet gambling - are to ban advertisements, block access to such websites, and block payments to and from the sites.

Other countries have adopted one or two of these measures but Singapore will adopt all three if the Bill is passed.

For example, France blocks only websites, while Norway blocks payments and advertisements.

In Britain, it is an offence to advertise or promote remote gambling on all forms of media.

Experts say having all three measures will help better clamp down on remote gambling.

Mr Dick Lum, executive director of One Hope Centre, a welfare organisation which helps people with problem gambling, said: "By itself, no one measure will be effective, because each has its own strengths and weaknesses."

Said Dr Ken Ung, a consultant psychiatrist at Adam Road Medical Centre: "The more barriers you put up, the more troublesome it is, and it gives them a chance to think twice. It's worth doing, but hardcore gamblers will find a way (to gamble) if they really want to."

Lawyer Amolat Singh from Amolat and Partners said the Bill underlines the Government's resolve in curbing remote gambling.

He added: "Some of our laws tend to be paternalistic.

"We want to bring about a certain desirable behaviour.

"But it's been proven that the Singapore system is quite effective. We have well-developed infrastructure and we are a small country, so it's easier to track down people too."


Restrictions on online gambling 'will deter many'

HELP groups for gambling addicts and other industry experts welcomed a newly proposed law that specifically targets online gambling, saying that it will act as a deterrent for many gamblers.

But the Remote Gambling Bill, which was tabled in Parliament on Monday, is not foolproof and will not be able to stop compulsive gamblers intent on getting their fix online, they added.

The Bill, which could become law when it is next read in Parliament, proposes to restrict online gambling through three main measures: Blocking access to online gambling websites, blocking money transfers to and from such sites, and banning advertisements which promote online gambling.

The move to target online gambling is an important one, as online gambling has become increasingly pervasive, given the ease of access to such sites, said experts.

Mr Gerald Goh, clinical director of counselling centre ECMS Consultants, said: "Right now, remote gambling is relatively unregulated, so it's good that the Bill is proposed... It's not foolproof, but it's definitely going to make things difficult for people."

Mr Goh said that most of the gambling addicts he sees gamble online and are between 16 and 35 years old, as the younger generation is more tech-savvy.

Addictions specialist Munidasa Winslow said: "Those who gamble without any thought of the consequences will now think twice, because of the penalties involved."

Criminal lawyer Amolat Singh added that the Bill's exemption - which allows for Singapore-based operators to offer online gambling, but tightly regulated and not for profit - is necessary.

"It's drawing a parallel to vice - better a known evil and therefore containment becomes easier, than totally trying to stifle it," he said.

It may be difficult to clamp down on online gambling though, given its highly addictive nature and the challenges of policing cyberspace.

Latest statistics from the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) show that online gamblers have the poorest self-control.

About a third of gamblers said that they gambled for a longer time period, more frequently or spent more money than planned.

Mr Dick Lum, executive director of One Hope Centre which counsels gambling addicts, said: "For compulsive gamblers, they won't stop just because of rules and regulations."

Some gamblers turn to online gambling as an alternative when they cannot enter casinos because of exclusion orders, he said.

Mr Goh also pointed out possible loopholes in the restrictions.

"Even if payment is blocked, some gamblers can go to Malaysia, set up a bank account, get a credit card and pay with that," he said.

At least two banks here - DBS Bank and OCBC Bank - said that they already block payments to online gambling sites.

Meanwhile, public education efforts are important as well, said help groups.

Ms Rachel Lee, senior assistant director of Fei Yue Family Service Centre, said: "Parents must also be responsible to monitor their children's behaviour."

An NCPG spokesman said the council will continue highlighting the risk of remote gambling, in particular, social games that simulate gambling, and developing programmes targeted at tech-savvy youth.

goyshiyi@sph.com.sg

limyihan@sph.com.sg


Background Story

GOOD MOVE

Right now, remote gambling is relatively unregulated, so it's good that the Bill is proposed... It's not foolproof, but it's definitely going to make things difficult for people.

- Mr Gerald Goh, clinical director of counselling centre ECMS Consultants, on the Bill proposed to curb online gambling

CONTROL RATHER THAN STIFLE

It's drawing a parallel to vice - better a known evil and therefore, containment becomes easier, than totally trying to stifle it.

- Criminal lawyer Amolat Singh, on the Bill's exemption - which allows for Singapore-based operators to offer online gambling, but tightly regulated and not for profit

NO DETERRENCE FOR SOME

For compulsive gamblers, they won't stop just because of rules and regulations.

- Mr Dick Lum, executive director of One Hope Centre which counsels gambling addicts

LIM YI HAN and PRISCILLA GOY

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Guidelines for home and day care services

Straits Times
03 Sep 2014
Kash Cheong

PROPOSED guidelines for home and day care services were released by the Ministry of Health yesterday.

The 40-page document was drafted by service providers, health-care professionals and policy experts.

"Official guidelines for home care are a major step forward," said Touch Community Service's director for home care and caregiver support Kavin Seow. "It signals the increasing importance of home-based care which has mostly been conducted within institutions in the past."

There are at least 17 home care providers supporting 5,000 patients and numerous day care centres across Singapore. Each sets its own standards. The Health Ministry hopes the industry-wide guidelines will align these.

They suggest that home care professionals not only plan for medical needs as the patient's disease progresses, but also look into daily needs, like installing railings in a senior's home.

Home care providers should also look into care planning, such as urging the client to consider making a lasting power of attorney.

The proposals come amid plans to improve services for an increasingly elderly population.

Dr Ng Wai Chong, who oversees the Hua Mei Mobile Clinic's home care services, said: "They serve as an important catalyst for new home services to be set up."

The Agency for Integrated Care will develop training plans for staff based on the guidelines.

The day centre guidelines highlight the treatment of patients with dementia, suggesting that any use of restraints should be documented.

The number of dementia patients is expected to rise from about 28,000 now to 80,000 by 2030.

CEO of the Alzheimer's Disease Association Jason Foo said: "We welcome these guidelines as more players in dementia care are expected."

The proposals are on the Health Ministry's website and the public can e-mail moh_careguidelines@moh.gov with feedback till Oct 2. The guidelines, which will not be punitive, are set to be finalised by the year end.

kashc@sph.com.sg

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Lawyer glut can be a happy problem

Straits Times
16 Sep 2014
Tan Chong Huat & Alvin Chen

THE current discussion on the implications of the leap in the number of Singaporeans enrolling in overseas law schools raises larger issues beyond the economic realities of finding jobs in the legal sector.

Today's highly developed legal environment is a far cry from early 19th-century Singapore, when almost anyone could be a law agent and lawyering was a part-time job.

To ensure that only persons with formal qualifications could advise and represent clients, the number of entrants to the legal profession was restricted in the 1870s to those with the appropriate qualifications.

Since then, admission to the profession has been regulated under the Legal Profession Act and the limited places in local law schools serve as an additional control valve.

But with increasing affluence, it is impossible to restrict the number of Singaporeans who study overseas for a law degree that will help them gain entry to the Singapore Bar.

The legal profession promises upward social mobility, which is uppermost in every parent's mind.

Such hopes are difficult to displace, and Singaporean law students today are, in a sense, little different from English legal apprentices in the past who aspired to become gentlemen through the practice of law.

Short of a drastic change to the number of recognised foreign law degrees, a lawyer glut is likely to stay with us for some time.

We should see this as a happy problem, as it offers the legal community an opportunity to examine how best to allocate more resources to enhance the practice of community law, and the larger society an opportunity to appreciate the role of law in society.

As observed in the 2013 Report of the 4th Committee on the Supply of Lawyers and by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon in his address at the 2014 Mass Call for newly qualified lawyers, there is a critical shortage of lawyers practising community law, such as family law and criminal law.

From a sociological perspective, it has been argued that the number of lawyers in any society depends on the social role that lawyers are expected to play.

We now have more potential lawyers, but if they do not intend to practise either family or criminal law, the legal profession will not continue to grow optimally and we will face the twin problems of a stagnant profession and unaddressed social needs.

It is thus timely that a number of measures, including the establishment of a third law school, are being taken to encourage prospective lawyers to practise community law. The challenge is to ensure that they stay the course.

The 4th Committee had recommended a more streamlined selection process to ensure that only candidates who show a genuine interest in the practice of community law be admitted to the third law school.

Also, the teaching pedagogy in this school would focus on incorporating elements of practical or vocational training.

We would suggest that these recommendations be complemented by mentorship programmes with senior practitioners and placements in law firms practising community law.

In addition, community lawyers will need more support in performing their work, given the financial constraints they operate under as well as the complex legal issues that may be raised in community law cases.

One example is the recent landmark decision by the Singapore High Court which set a default benchmark sentence for negligent driving that causes death.

That case considered the legal culpability of negligent drivers, the need for general deterrence and whether past court decisions should be overruled retroactively or prospectively. These are difficult issues for the Bench and Bar to ponder.

The third law school, the existing two law schools and other relevant stakeholders should work together to establish a centre to conduct research into community law issues.

Research findings should be readily made available to community lawyers as well as the courts to assist in producing a fully informed outcome in each case.

Some concerns about the glut of lawyers stem from a fear that more lawyers may mean more lawsuits. An over-litigious society is obviously undesirable.

One long-term solution is to educate students on the proper function of the law in society and why law has an important role to play in addressing social needs.

With the increasing emphasis on promoting Singapore law, it may be time to consider whether law should be formally taught as a subject at our junior colleges. In the United Kingdom, law is offered as an A-level subject.

As for fears that this may encourage even more students to take up law at a time when the profession has problems absorbing the numbers, the fact is that the study of law not only develops critical thinking skills but also offers a gateway to other professions.

So while Singaporean law students today should be realistic in assessing their chances in pursuing a legal career, those who wish to practise community law as a life-long vocation should be given as much support as possible.

At the same time, in view of the central role of law in Singapore society, it is crucial to inculcate a proper understanding of the law in our younger citizens, so as to minimise the risk that more lawyers will result in an over-litigious society.

The first writer is managing partner, and the second writer is head, professional services support, both of law firm RHTLaw Taylor Wessing LLP.


Background Story

We now have more potential lawyers, but if they do not intend to practise either family or criminal law, the legal profession will not continue to grow optimally and we will face the twin problems of a stagnant profession and unaddressed social needs.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Loan guarantee a story made up by Kong, says DPP

Straits Times
10 Sep 2014
Joyce Hooi

INDONESIAN businessman Wahju Hanafi's personal guarantee to pay for Ho Yeow Sun's album expenses was a story made up by City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee, the prosecution said yesterday.

The entire story was part of an elaborate scheme to justify putting money back into the hole left by bond proceeds which were used to fund her career. Mr Hanafi was "simply a conduit" for money which was previously used to fund the Crossover Project to be put back into the church's building fund.

But Kong, who was cross-examined by Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong yesterday, disagreed, insisting that Mr Hanafi's guarantee was real.

To prove its case, the prosecution submitted a series of BlackBerry messages between church fund manager Chew Eng Han and Xtron Productions director Choong Kar Weng.

In the messages, Chew had asked Mr Choong: "How are we going to pay back? Have they thought about it?"

Chew also asked who would be the "official" borrower, to which Mr Choong replied: "Should be Wahju, right?"

Chew then said: "I don't know if that has changed. Things have changed now because the ability to repay is more affected now. As long as Wahju is willing and is okay..."

Mr Choong finished the exchange with: "Yah, we must agree first."

Earlier, the prosecution had questioned the need for a back-to-back guarantee signed by Kong and three others, including deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng and Chew, for Mr Hanafi in 2010.

Despite Kong insisting that Mr Hanafi had given him a verbal personal guarantee in 2002, a written agreement was signed only in 2010, backdated to 2007.

Kong had earlier confirmed that there was no such guarantee prior to 2010.

Kong replied: "I can only explain to you based on what was told to me, and what was told to me at the material time was that pastor Wahju is going to make good the album expenses... Should we all just encourage him, to let him know that we are standing together with him and, if need be, we will also provide financial support.

"And with that, I say 'yes', because this is also our mission, and Wahju has been so generous all these years."

DPP Ong concluded by saying that Mr Hanafi's personal guarantee was "for show".

The real reason for Kong to sign the back-to-back guarantee was because Mr Hanafi, when asked to stand as guarantor in 2010, needed an assurance that he was not going to be left paying the debts, said DPP Ong.

This is because he was actually "just letting his name" be used as the guarantor for the Crossover Project, said DPP Ong.

The prosecutor added that Kong deliberately concealed the church's money being used to purchase Xtron and Firna bonds to finance his wife's career.

But Kong told the court that by the time the investigations were started by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), he did "a lot of soul-searching".

"So, I wanted to come clean with the CAD. And I probably felt that, why don't I just come clean with the members as well...

"Not because I felt that we have done anything illegal or wrong in the past, but this is consistent with my mindset and my attitude at that point in time," said Kong.

The prosecution completed its cross-examination of Kong by putting it to him that he had engaged in a series of lies and deceptions over the years to conceal and facilitate the unauthorised use of the church's building fund by him and his co-accused Tan, Chew, Serina Wee and John Lam.

The trial continues today.

joycel@sph.com.sg


Background Story

MINDSET AT THE TIME

So, I wanted to come clean with the CAD. And I probably felt that, why don't I just come clean with the members as well... Not because I felt that we have done anything illegal or wrong in the past, but this is consistent with my mindset and my attitude at that point in time.

- City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee

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Former Seagate director’s acquittal in question as court clarifies graft Act

TODAY
02 Sep 2014

Law should cover more sophisticated, less traditional forms of corruption, it says

SINGAPORE — The fate of a former Seagate Technology director, whose graft conviction was overturned on appeal, is again in question.

This comes as the Court of Appeal clarified the interpretation of the Prevention of Corruption Act, following questions prosecutors raised about comments made by the High Court judge who had acquitted Mr Henry Teo Chu Ha.

In its grounds of decision released last week, Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang wrote on behalf of the court: “It could hardly have been the purpose of the Act to exclude from its scope schemes which were no different from the more ‘traditional’ or blatant forms or methods of corruption — except that they were cleverer and more sophisticated as well as devious.”

He added: “On the contrary, in our view, it is even more important that the Act cover these last-mentioned forms of corruption as well, especially now that the world and the concomitant schemes of corruption have become more complex and sophisticated since the Act was first passed.”

Central to Mr Teo’s case were 20,000 shares of trucking company Biforst, for which he paid S$6,000 in 2004, before the firm won contracts with his then employer. The 65-year-old was convicted, sentenced to six months’ jail and ordered to pay a S$576,225 penalty — the amount he received in 11 dividend payouts between 2006 and 2010.

In acquitting Mr Teo last September, Justice Choo Han Teck noted that in cases where the alleged gratification consisted of shares an accused person had paid for, “it is for the prosecution to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the payment for the shares was a sham”.

Given that Justice Choo’s finding would be binding on future corruption cases, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) sought clarity on this point with the appellate court.

In its judgment, Justice Phang ruled that the fact Mr Teo had paid for the shares did not mean they were not gratification. Indeed, his payment was a “legal red herring”, he said.

First, Mr Teo would have been unable to buy Biforst’s shares in the open market as it is a private firm, which had been formed for the purpose of securing trucking contracts from Seagate through Mr Teo’s influence in the company, the judge noted.

Without the shares, he would not have been able to receive the “subsequent kickbacks which were camouflaged and sanitised through ... (taking) the form of his ‘share of profits’”, said Justice Phang.

 “At the end of the day, one has to look at the substance of the entire scheme and its context rather than only at the actual and more specific transaction involving payment for the shares themselves,” he said.

 “That it is not necessary for prosecutors to prove that the share transaction was a sham ... is also consistent with the broader spirit and policy behind the Act itself — which is to prevent corruption in its various forms, and all the more so with regard to deliberate and involved as well as sophisticated schemes.”

To require otherwise would be to “effectively undermine the pith and marrow of the Act itself by permitting it to be circumvented by sophisticated as well as disingenuous schemes”, he added.

A hearing has been fixed today for the AGC and Mr Teo’s lawyers will make submissions on Justice Choo’s decision to acquit Mr Teo.

Copyright 2014 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

To view the judgment, click <here>.

Fung Choi suspends trading over dispute with lender

Straits Times
16 Sep 2014
Melissa Tan

AN EXTENDED trading halt for Fung Choi Media has morphed into a longer suspension, with the firm locked in a dispute with a lender over whether it had defaulted on a payment.

The printing and packaging firm, an associate of Fraser & Neave (F&N), yesterday asked the Singapore Exchange (SGX) for a voluntary suspension of trading in its shares as it seeks legal advice.

The mainboard-listed firm is trying to decide what to do now that its Hong Kong unit, Fung Choi Printing, has been placed under receivership by the lender, BCA Best Business Service.

BCA holds US$30 million (S$37.9 million) worth of Fung Choi's yuan-denominated bonds due in 2016.

It alleged that around May this year Fung Choi had failed to make an interest payment, which BCA said constituted a default under the bond agreement terms.

Fung Choi, however, told the SGX last week that it "did not agree that an event of default had occurred" and had "entered into discussions" with BCA. The two reached a settlement and amended the bond terms in July.

But the trouble did not end there. BCA and Fung Choi later disagreed again, this time over certain payments to be made as part of the settlement. That sequence of events ended in BCA appointing receivers to Fung Choi Printing earlier this month.

Fung Choi told the SGX yesterday that it is "taking legal advice on the effect of the appointment of receivers". "The company is in the midst of assessing the most appropriate remedies and avenues available in enforcing and defending its rights," it added.

It said since it was still "in the process of actively obtaining more information and being advised by its legal counsel", it had decided to ask for a trading suspension until that information and advice could be confirmed.

It said it was "using its best endeavours in expediting the above process" and would "seek to lift the trading suspension as soon as possible".

The suspension yesterday morning followed an extended trading halt that began last week.

Fung Choi had halted trading on Monday morning last week. Three days later, it asked for the halt to be extended until the end of last Friday.

That was the group's second trading halt this month. It earlier called for a halt between Sept 4 and 5, right before it learnt of the appointment of the receivers on the afternoon of Sept 5.

Fung Choi missed a deadline last month for reporting its full-year 2014 results.

Over the last five months, Fung Choi has lost its chief financial officer and an independent director: Mr Woo Yiu Chung resigned as CFO in April, and Mr Wang Xiao Dong, an independent director, quit in July.

An F&N spokesman told The Straits Times earlier this month that the group "currently has no plans to sell its 29.5 per cent stake in Fung Choi".

melissatan@sph.com.sg

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Students encouraged to consider family and criminal law: Forum

Straits Times
10 Sep 2014

WE THANK Mr George Goh Chong Teck for his feedback ("Get lawyers to go into family, criminal law"; last Friday).

As he has correctly observed, the spike in the number of overseas-trained law graduates is due to the willingness and ability of Singaporeans to pursue law degrees overseas. It is for this reason that available statistics have been made public, to ensure that those who are considering the pursuit of law degrees are able to make informed choices.

The third law school is intended to meet the need for lawyers in the areas of family and criminal law, by focusing on mature students with experience in fields such as social work and law enforcement, and who display a keen interest in these areas of law.

In addition, the third law school can address some of the demand, albeit in a modest way, as its proposed intake will be only about 50 to 70 students per year, from Singaporeans wanting to study law and who would otherwise pursue this option overseas.

Aside from the third law school, the Ministry of Law and key stakeholders in the profession will also continue to encourage law students from the National University of Singapore, Singapore Management University and overseas to consider careers in family and criminal law. For example, we work closely with the universities to arrange for students to undertake pro bono work as part of their training. These are not mutually exclusive initiatives to the third law school.

Praveen Randhawa (Ms)

Press Secretary to Minister

Ministry of Law

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Elder sister wins fight over land

Straits Times
02 Sep 2014
K.C. Vijayan

Two sisters in their 80s locked horns over a piece of land in Joo Chiat worth over $2 million. And last week, the High Court awarded the property to elder sister Zulaikha Bee Abdul Kader.

The disagreement centred on a deed which their mother Fatimah Sultan made in 1971, declaring that she held the land on trust for Madam Zulaikha.

But younger sister Ummuhani Umma, and three other parties, argued that the trust was not valid because it had not been registered under the relevant Act, and that Madam Fatimah did not understand the document as she did not read or write English.

Justice Tan Siong Thye overruled these claims and held that Madam Zulaikha was the beneficial owner of two houses on the land. The deed was signed in the presence of Mr Ebrahim Marican Ismail Sahib, now 81, who testified that he had interpreted the contents to Madam Fatimah in Malay on two occasions before she gave her thumbprint.

It had also been executed in the presence of lawyer Jeanne Wu, another witness at the trial.

While noting that there were discrepancies in Mr Ebrahim's testimony, the judge pointed out that this did not mean he should take "the easy way out and jettison his entire testimony".

The court had to remain focused on the basic issue of whether Madam Fatimah understood the trust deed, said the judge.

There are three houses on the 688.7 sq m plot in Joo Chiat Place, and the spat involved two of them. The third is owned by Madam Zulaikha's brother-in- law Mohamed Abdul Kader.

The disputed land was bought by Madam Zulaikha's husband Mohamed Hidayatullah Sahib in 1963, but he sold it to his mother-in-law for $11,000.

Mr Sahib died in 1992 and Madam Fatimah four years later.

The land was held by Madam Fatimah's estate, which also disputed the claims of Madam Zulaikha, who was represented by Stamford Law lawyer Adrian Tan.

Justice Tan said that not recognising the deed would be to "allow the trustee a convenient escape to obligations which (she) clearly undertook to observe under the trust".

Dismissing claims that the 1971 deed was a "sham", Justice Tan also denied a call by defence counsel Rajan Nair to get Madam Zulaikha, who uses a wheelchair, to testify, as she was frail and suffering from dementia. Her son Mohamed Mohidin Habibullah was suing on her behalf.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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To view the judgment, click <here>.

Gear up for OECD's global tax framework

Business Times
16 Sep 2014
Chris Woo & Chai Sui Fun

THERE has been unprecedented attention on tax avoidance in the last few years. This discussion has however, evolved over the years, shifting away from illegal acts of tax evasion to so-called "legal" tax avoidance involving the practices of Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) that purportedly lead to some proportion of their profits not being taxed anywhere in the world or taxed at very low rates.

This became apparent with the 2012 UK Public Accounts Committee hearing of the tax practices of certain MNEs. While these companies have argued that they have played by the rules, there was huge public outcry over what was perceived to be "the right amount of tax" to be paid. Following this, the US Senate has also launched enquiries into the tax practices of other MNEs, while the European Commission has opened investigations into taxpayer-friendly arrangements offered by several European countries to MNEs.

It is widely recognised that the international tax framework has not kept pace with the globalisation of MNEs or the complexity and cross-border nature of their operations - creating considerable uncertainty for both MNEs and tax authorities alike. In recent times, the primary focus has been on the exploitation of gaps in tax rules by companies to artificially reduce their corporate taxes. Acting on the call by G-20 leaders, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) embarked on the Base Erosion & Profit Shifting (BEPS) project, which aims to propose new international tax frameworks to close these tax loopholes

According to the OECD, BEPS relates chiefly to instances where the interaction of different tax rules leads to some part of the profits of MNES not being taxed at all. It also relates to arrangements that achieve no or low taxation by shifting profits away from where the activities creating those profits take place.

We have now passed the mid-point of the OECD BEPS project. Over this period, the OECD has made rapid progress in addressing some of these concerns, with the first set of recommendations to combat BEPS activities due to be announced later today.

Cure worse than disease?

One of the key areas of progress is in tax transparency. The implementation of the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (Fatca) and the adoption of automatic exchange of information as the new global standard for tax information sharing (as supported by more than 65 countries, including Singapore) signals the beginning of the end of "tax secrecy". Concurrently, the OECD is working on new rules under the "Country by Country Reporting" initiative, which obligates taxpayers to disclose information on their global profit allocation principles in relation to their business activities, by territory.

There will be new yardsticks in the international tax world, but will it stifle trade?

Ahead of this, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) issued a public consultation earlier this month for its proposed new Transfer Pricing Documentation guidelines which require the preparation of fairly extensive corporate and financial information of MNEs in a timely fashion. Taken together, these developments will certainly put pressure on increased disclosures of a MNE's tax affairs and global profit allocation principles.

Increased complexities and compliance efforts aside, MNEs are also most concerned with the potential chaos that will emanate from a lack of consensus on a global solution to address (perceived) BEPS concerns. Indeed, even before the OECD is set to release its recommendations this month to "mend" the international tax framework, many countries have already gone ahead to implement BEPS-related actions to safeguard their interests as the "battle against tax avoidance" rages on. Territories across Europe, South America, and even Asia (including Singapore), have already gone ahead and taken (unilateral) actions including strengthening enforcement on general anti-avoidance and/or transfer pricing rules, and restricting access to tax treaty benefits.

As this crusade continues, how the OECD's proposed international tax framework will interact with local country measures is unclear. While we hope that these initiatives will not cause more confusion, the greater fear is that the "cure" will be worse than the "disease", and that these measures could stifle bona fide commercial transactions that promote international trade, investment and growth.

However, these all go to show that paying taxes has evolved from being a pure legal obligation to a discussion on what is considered a "fair" amount of tax to be paid. Clearly, the onus is on both taxpayers and tax advisers to demonstrate responsible planning, which is aligned with real business strategies and objectives. MNE groups will need to revisit strategies on strengthening their internal controls and governance procedures, while balancing the need to remain competitive with the need to comply with increasingly complex tax rules.

The role of tax advisers will also need to evolve, from providing mere technical support to a Group's international tax affairs, to one where they would need to demonstrate a keen awareness of the subtleties behind international tax developments, reputational factors and "moral" responsibilities, and even potentially playing a "devil's advocate" role to better advise their clients. For instance, PwC's Code of Conduct in Tax Planning may serve as an example. While we take the view that PwC firms should always advise clients of appropriate options available to them under the law, we also believe we should only propose planning arrangements where either:

• the underlying business arrangements have some commercial purpose other than the avoidance of tax; or
• the tax outcomes of the arrangements are consistent with the intention of the relevant tax law or other relevant law in the country concerned or the international treaties it has entered into; or
• the planning creates economic or commercial consequences or effects including the necessary economic substance in each location to achieve those effects.

Unwanted pressure on Singapore

It is clear that there will be new yardsticks in the international tax world of the future. What is not clear is whether there will be any "winners" as countries battle over the same tax pie. Meanwhile, countries such as Singapore have tried to adopt a more balanced perspective in considering its tax policy developments with its tax administration needs. Accordingly, as a country which has successfully initiated programmes to facilitate and stimulate substantive investments, Singapore, like many others, is facing mounting but often unwarranted pressure from other states to tighten her rules. It remains to be seen, how individual countries such as Singapore will react to these proposals and address any inherent inconsistencies thereof.

Chris Woo is M&A Leader and Tax Leader (Designate), and Chai Sui Fun is Transfer Pricing Partner, at PwC Singapore

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Cutting red tape for businesses

Straits Times
09 Sep 2014
Melissa Tan

LESS red tape for businesses is on the cards after proposed changes to the Companies Act that were introduced in Parliament yesterday.

One proposed move is to exempt more small companies from having to get their accounts audited.

Another is to let people who register with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) submit an alternative address rather than have their home address shown in public records.

These proposed changes are aimed at easing companies' regulatory burden, giving them greater flexibility and improving the corporate governance landscape in Singapore, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement yesterday.

The changes could benefit an additional 25,000 companies in Singapore at least, the ministry said.

It added that, in total, these made up the largest number of changes to the Companies Act since the Act was enacted in 1967.

Under existing rules, only companies that fall into a special category of "exempt private companies" and bring in $5 million or less in revenue a year do not need to get their accounts audited.

However, the proposed change will let more businesses qualify for the audit exemption.

It will let private companies that have up to $10 million in annual turnover, up to $10 million in total assets and up to 50 employees get an exemption from account audits.

Companies will need to meet just two of those three conditions to be exempted.

Another significant change the Finance Ministry proposed in a second Bill yesterday was that people who register with Acra can provide an alternative address rather than their home address.

The ministry said that there were "concerns about public disclosure of residential addresses" in Acra's current public records.

Safeguards will be put in place to "minimise fraudulent reporting and filing of invalid addresses", it added.

Three other Bills were introduced yesterday by the Finance Ministry, including a "Business Names Registration" Bill, which aims to cut red tape for the registration of business names.

The second Bill was about the details of seller's stamp duty for industrial properties, and the third one was about technical changes to the goods and services tax (GST) system, such as GST on re-imported goods.

melissat@sph.com.sg

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IP system 'needs backing of cross-border treaties'

Business Times
02 Sep 2014
Amit Roy Choudhury

A streamlined system will handle the boom in patents filed

WITH the economic centre of gravity moving to Asia, more innovation is happening in this part of the world. And as Asian companies and researchers innovate and create more intellectual property (IP), the number of patents being filed has exploded. This has put pressure on the global IP system, which has, until now, been geared to cater to a more manageable number of patents being filed in traditional centres of innovation like the Americas and Europe.

Francis Gurry, the Australian director-general of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), shares some interesting statistics with The Business Times.

A look at the IP filings under the international patent system administered by WIPO shows that in 1994, Japan, China and South Korea accounted for 7.4 per cent of the total number of international patent applications.

Last year, they accounted for 38 per cent.

This leap has to be viewed in the context of another major development - that the number of patents filed worldwide shot through the roof over the last decade or so.

In 2012, global patent filings - both local and international ones filed with various patent offices around the world - grew at their strongest rate in nearly two decades. Altogether, 2.35 million applications were filed, in an indication of the increasing importance that companies and researchers are ascribing to their intangible assets.

Last year, WIPO itself registered a record 205,300 international patent applications. Singapore's share of that was 837 applications, up from 708 in the previous year - a nearly 20 per cent increase.

Dr Gurry notes that there is a need to streamline the global IP system in order to cope with the growing demand for IP rights. "A heavy backlog of some five million unprocessed patent applications worldwide - excluding data from China's IP office - mars the performance of the patent system."

WIPO's efforts in this regard are undertaken via the adoption of new multilateral treaties, such as the Patent Law Treaty (PLT), which came into force in 2005, and the facilitation of discussions under WIPO's auspices for the progressive development of the international patent system. The quality of patents is also being discussed, as is the provision of IT-based mechanisms for voluntary cooperation and further development of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) as a means for international cooperation.

The PCT provides patent protection internationally. By filing an international patent application under it, applicants simultaneously seek protection for an invention in 148 countries throughout the world.

Dr Gurry argues that the way forward is multilateralism: An enhanced IP system underpinned by multilateral treaties, such as those administered by WIPO.

"What we need is progress on current discussions at the international level in order to facilitate the near-term convergence of patent laws as well as multilateral cooperation, and eventually the adoption of legal instruments that reflect those achievements. We also need other forms of voluntary IT-based cooperation and further development of existing tools such as PCT."

The WIPO boss notes that the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) has been doing a good job. It has been very active in recruiting a range of technical experts for its patent search and examination unit.

"IPOS also ensures its examiners go through a structured training programme to ensure that they have the right skills to undertake the work. Having the right people, with access to the right training, are crucial ingredients in establishing an effective and reputable patent capability, so Singapore appears to be on the right track."

He also notes that Singapore is very active in working with its Asean neighbours in a number of different patent-related areas, including the Asean Patent Examination Cooperation, or ASPEC, which is the first regional patent work-sharing programme among Asean member states.

"ASPEC has the capacity to reduce complexity, achieve time savings and improve the quality of patent search and examination performed in Singapore and the Asean region, and it is pleasing that Singapore, as the lead country for this initiative, is working hard to make the patent system more effective," he says.

He adds that there is always room to help improve peoples' understanding of the real value of IP - that rights such as patents can deliver value to a business - and this is particularly the case among small and medium-sized enterprises.

"We are pleased that Singapore continues to undertake activities that raise awareness and understanding of the IP system within the Singapore business community."

There are "enormous opportunities" for companies, as well as for individuals, in engaging with the global IP system, he says. International commerce and new communications technologies are promoting increasing inter-connections among people from around the world, and opening up new markets.

"It's also important to note the massive investment that goes into the production of new knowledge which leads to innovation: More than US$1 trillion is being invested in research and development (R&D) annually around the world."

He believes that Singaporeans, living in a South-east Asian trade hub that has grown into a crossroads for the world, understand this as well as anyone.

"Singaporeans have always looked beyond their borders for business opportunities, and the global intellectual property system undergirds the framework that makes this possible," he points out.

The fundamental challenge is to achieve a shared understanding of the contribution and value of IP to economic, social and cultural development, he says. "This is not easy as a number of obstacles lie in the path, such as different competitive interests in an economy in which knowledge- and technology-intensive industries account for a 30 per cent (and growing) share of global economic output; asymmetries of wealth, opportunity and knowledge and the realities of a multilateral system that operates on consensus among disparate partners."

Technology is encroaching on every aspect of our lives, wherever one lives, and at some point, one will inevitably come up against the IP rights associated with its use. Broad debate on these issues is perfectly normal and very healthy, says Dr Gurry.

Referring to the recent series of high-profile patent wars in the mobile industry, he notes that there has always been disputes between competitors regarding the validity of patents and whether a patent is infringed or not.

"The recent disputes in the smartphone and tablet industry may be characterised by the fact that it involves more companies (each of the principal actors has different patent strategies at different levels of the value chain), more patents (due to more complex technologies) and more countries (due to globalisation).

"So the whole process of bringing products like these to the market involves more money and consumers, raising the stakes and prompting disputes."

However, Dr Gurry notes that not every dispute ends up in court. "The WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre is a neutral, international and non-profit dispute resolution provider that offers time and cost-efficient alternative dispute resolution (ADR) options.

"WIPO mediation, arbitration, expedited arbitration and expert determination enable private parties to efficiently settle their domestic or cross-border IP and technology disputes out of court. The WIPO Centre also offers domain name dispute resolution services."

His key message: If the patent system cannot enable innovative patentees to defend their rights, while also permitting competitors to challenge the validity of patents, society as a whole may see less innovation and advancement.

amit@sph.com.sg

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

ADV: Mediation and Expert Determination for Maritime Shipping

Singapore Law Watch
16 Sep 2014
MOOGAS

New Bill tightens rules on using phone while driving

Business Times
09 Sep 2014
Malminderjit Singh

[SINGAPORE] If you think it is legal for you to read that email that just came in to your inbox on your tablet or reading that last line of your e-book while driving, think again.

Parliament on Monday passed a new bill which, among other things, will tighten the use of mobile devices while driving on Singapore's roads. The Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2014 amends the Road Traffic Act (RTA) to expand the scope of the offence for driving while using a mobile telephone to include the use of all 'mobile communication devices', including tablet computers.

The definition of 'use' will also be broadened to cover any function of the device, including Internet surfing, checking e-mail, or playing games, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs, Masagos Zulkifli, confirmed in parliament on Monday.

The rule will apply if the driver is operating any function of a device, while holding the device in at least one hand and when the vehicle is in motion.

This came as several MPs raised concerns on the previous narrow scope of this law, with Hri Kumar (MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) arguing that the offence should not only be applied when the vehicle is in motion, but also when it is stopped at a traffic light or stuck in a traffic jam. Many others cited other distractions to drivers such as mounted communication devices, which will be outside the scope of the offence.

"However, we also recognise that it is neither possible nor practical for the law to specify all the actions, and even devices, that could potentially distract the driver . . . To sum up our approach with respect to defining the scope of the handphone driving offence, we have deliberately decided to take a measured approach in tightening the rules on handphone driving. But we will continue to monitor the situation after the new changes come into effect and study the practices of other jurisdictions as they evolve to deal with other types of smart devices that are being developed," Mr Masagos said.

Besides this, other changes to the Act aim to enhance the competency of motorists. Under the amended licensing regime for foreign vocational drivers, work pass holders who drive for work will need to obtain a local driving licence within six months from the date they obtain their work passes. Currently, the RTA allows foreigners to drive in Singapore with a valid foreign licence for up to 12 months from their date of last entry into Singapore.

This change will take effect on Jan 1, 2016, for new work pass holders who obtain their work passes on or after that date. As a transitional arrangement for existing work pass holders who obtain their work passes before Jan 1, 2016, this change will take place on Jan 1, 2017.

Among other changes, motorists who have accumulated half or more of their allowable demerit points can choose to attend a voluntary Safe Driving Course (SDC). Individuals who pass the SDC will have three demerit points removed from their record.

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MAS, SGX seek feedback on bond framework

Business Times
02 Sep 2014
Nisha Ramchandani

THE Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Singapore Exchange (SGX) are seeking feedback on proposed changes that would give retail investors better access to bonds.

This comes amid rising retail interest in fixed income products such as plain vanilla corporate bonds. However, corporate issuers have typically turned to institutional and accredited investors, with only a small proportion of such bond issuances being allotted to retail investors.

Under the proposed bond "seasoning" framework as it is known, retail investors would be able to buy bonds that were initially offered to institutional and accredited investors once these bonds have been listed for six months.

Issuers would also be able to sell retail investors additional bonds in terms similar to the seasoned bonds without having to issue a prospectus. Presently, retail investors are only able to buy bonds in an offering if the issuer registers a prospectus with MAS.

The amount of new bonds that can be offered via a re-tap will be capped at 50 per cent of the initial offer size.

The new framework would also allow seasoned bonds in large denominations of at least S$200,000 to be re-denominated into smaller lot sizes and made available to retail investors through secondary trading.

Meanwhile, issuers who are able to satisfy certain requirements above the eligibility criteria can offer bonds to retail investors without a prospectus.

But safeguards will be put in place to protect retail investors if the proposed changes comes to pass.

SGX said that the framework would apply only to plain vanilla bonds with an initial minimum principal amount of S$300 million and a maximum tenure of 10 years. Issuers would have to meet criteria set by SGX - such as market capitalisation and credit rating, among others.

In addition, for offers which don't require the lodging of a prospectus, issuers would have to give retail investors critical information on the features and risks associated with the bonds.

"These proposals are part of MAS' overall efforts to improve retail access to simple investment products that give decent returns without too much risk," said MAS managing director Ravi Menon.

"Companies based in Singapore will have a larger pool of investors to tap into while retail investors can diversify further their wealth management portfolio," commented UOB Group's head of investment banking Ronny Chng. "These measures will also deepen the SGD debt capital market and make it more attractive for companies to raise funds in Singapore dollar."

The six-month window gives retail investors time to observe the performance of such eligible bonds before they can participate, noted OCBC Bank's head of capital markets Tan Kee Phong, who said the development is a positive one for the market.

MAS and SGX have issued consultation papers which are available on their respective websites. Interested parties can send their comments to SGX and to MAS by Sept 30.

nishar@sph.com.sg

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Privacy Act sows confusion

TODAY
15 Sep 2014
Richard Hartung

The past few weeks have brought about another slew of confusion related to the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), which kicked in on July 2. Some bank statements were free of marketing inserts after the banks decided that the Act prevented them from sending anything, for example, while others were filled with fliers. A small non-profit organisation grappled with the question of whether a sign at the entrance to an auditorium was sufficient to comply with the Act and allow it to use photos from an event it held there. The human resource department at an SME increased the workload of its already-overburdened staff to ensure compliance with the Act.

These activities are only a few of many that illustrate the complexity and confusion that still surround the PDPA. Indeed, more than a month after the Act came into effect, organisations large and small continue to struggle to interpret the Act and figure out how to comply with it. Some even seem unaware as to what the Act requires them to do.

The PDPA is clearly well-intentioned. Before it came into effect, consumers were increasingly inundated with unsolicited marketing calls using their personal data, and concerns about companies abusing data to target consumers were growing. Cases of consumers being scammed or harassed when their data was used inappropriately were also on the rise.

The Act was designed to address these and a myriad other worries. As Mr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for what was then the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, explained during the second reading of the Act in 2012, consumers need a data protection regime to address growing concerns over the use of their personal data and to maintain trust in organisations which manage their data. The Act also strengthened Singapore’s position as a trusted business hub, he said, by putting it on par with other countries that have enacted data protection laws.

To ensure its effectiveness, any person guilty of an offence under the PDPA can be fined up to S$1 million or sentenced to three years in prison.

However well-intentioned it may be, the Act has created immense challenges and costs. As consulting firm PWC stated after the Act was passed, the challenges range from taking an inventory of all requirements and establishing a data protection structure to revisiting the way an organisation manages its entire set of clients’ and employees’ personal data.

Another difficulty is simply in understanding the Act. As an example of how complex the law is, NTUC’s Data Protection Officer Training Programme takes four full days to explain how the Act works and lay just a practical foundation. Guidelines issued by the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) last year, one of many documents explaining the Act, run to more than 100 pages.

And obtaining information can be difficult. As Singapore Dental Association president Kuan Chee Keong wrote earlier this year, perhaps reflecting concerns in other sectors as well, “the PDPA commission, overwhelmed with the brouhaha over the DNC Registry, has no time to address concerns in other sectors. The healthcare sector will just have to wait for our turn.” It was only last week, more than two months after the Act came into effect, that the PDPC issued further guidelines only for the healthcare, social, education and photography sectors.

Perhaps understandably, then, an Industry Readiness Survey, conducted by the PDPC earlier this year, showed that half of organisations did not have adequate data protection measures in place and were not clear about what needed to be done.

While more organisations may have figured out parts of the Act since then, a significant number are still not in compliance with the law.

MAKING THE ACT LESS CONFUSING

While the Act came into effect only on July 2, it has been clear that organisations find it challenging to figure out and implement the Act.

Given this, at least three steps seem imperative. The first is to publicise the Act so that more organisations know about it.

While policymakers may assume that everyone knows about the Act, talks held with SMEs and non-profit organisations as well as ordinary citizens indicate that many do not know about the PDPA or think that it does not apply to them. An effective publicity campaign is also essential.

Next, organisations, such as the chambers of commerce or the PDPC, could develop better programmes to help companies understand the Act.

Data protection officers need tools to explain how to implement the Act correctly, such as easy-to-understand guidelines, YouTube videos that go beyond only an introduction, quick answers to questions and other materials which explain things better than four-day workshops or hundreds of pages of guidelines.

Finally, a set of templates would make implementation easier. While each organisation is different and templates need to be tailored to their needs, easily obtainable samples of procedures, job descriptions and other materials would dramatically reduce the burden of compliance for many organisations.

Since even banks and other companies with enormous budgets have varying understanding of how to interpret the Act, it seems apparent that far greater efforts are needed to ensure organisations adhere to the letter and the spirit of the Act.

While the PDPA can bring about tremendous benefits in the long run, more support to make its implementation easier may be the only way to avoid burdening well-intentioned organisations across the island and ensure the legislation achieves its goal.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Richard Hartung is a financial services consultant who has lived in Singapore since 1992.

Copyright 2014 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Bill to outlaw remote gambling tabled

Business Times
09 Sep 2014
Kelly Tay

Singapore looks set to enact the world's most restrictive laws on online and mobile gambling. These pursuits will soon be prohibited if the Remote Gambling Bill - tabled for the first time in Parliament on Monday - is passed.

Through a set of blocking measures - thwarting access to websites, payment channels, and advertising - the government plans to outlaw and criminalise all remote gambling activities. These are defined as gambling through the internet, telephone, or other kinds of communications technology.

If the Bill is passed, the legislation is expected to come into force next year, according to a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) spokesman.

The restrictions will apply as long as the gambling activity takes place in Singapore, regardless of where the bet is placed or where the remote gambling operator is located.

The Bill provides for a tightly controlled exemption regime, however. A Singapore-based, not-for-profit entity can apply to be an exempt operator if it contributes to public, social, or charitable purposes in Singapore, and has a good track record of complying with legal and regulatory requirements.

These exempted entities will be subject to strict operating conditions in the areas of social safeguards and responsible gambling, among others.

The legislation, if passed, will compel internet service providers to block at least a few hundred websites, and require banks to block fund transfers related to remote gambling activities.

In addition to making it an offence to advertise any form of remote gambling activity on any media platform, the legislation will also criminalise the act of assisting unauthorised operators.

This will give the police more powers to deal with agents, intermediaries, operators, and syndicates. An agent who facilitates remote gambling, for instance, could be fined up to S$200,000 and/or face a maximum prison term of five years.

While Singapore has strict regulations on gambling, its current laws do not expressly address remote gambling, as they were enacted before the internet era. For example, the Betting Act and Common Gaming Houses Act were originally enacted in 1960 and 1961, respectively.

Said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in a press statement: "In developing this Bill, MHA studied the laws and practices of other jurisdictions, such as Hong Kong, Norway, and France. A six-week-long public consultation was held to seek feedback on the proposed framework. Consultations with grassroots, social services, religious and industry groups were also conducted, and their views have been considered.

"The objectives for regulating remote gambling are to maintain law and order and protect young persons and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by remote gambling," added MHA.

This is especially since remote gambling can potentially become a conduit for other illegal activities and syndicated crimes. It is also easily accessible and often features addictive and repetitive play.

Indeed, a 2011 National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) survey found that online gamblers had worse self-control than on-site gamblers, and were more likely to gamble at a higher frequency, for a longer duration, and with more money than they had originally planned. Problem gambling counselling centres have also noted an increase in the number of online gamblers asking for help.

Because Singapore's remote gambling space is currently unregulated, no official figures are available, and it is hard to gauge the scope of the problem.

But analysts have estimated the size of the remote gambling market in Singapore to be over US$300 million; this is expected to grow by 6 to 7 per cent annually.

Globally, the revenue of the remote gambling industry in 2012 was estimated at US$35 billion, with a projected annual growth rate of 9 per cent. This is about five times the expected growth for conventional terrestrial gambling, which happens in person and on-site.

The Bill - introduced in Parliament on Monday by Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli - will be debated when Parliament next sits again in October.

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Woman jailed for tax evasion

Straits Times
02 Sep 2014

A former businesswoman has been jailed for 10 days and ordered to pay a penalty of $177,315 - three times the amount of tax evaded - after making false entries twice in her individual income tax returns.

Chua Guat, 59, was managing partner of a business in the wholesale trade of hardware when she under-reported her income in her 2005 and 2006 years of assessment (YA). She was sentenced last Friday after admitting to the two charges.

As the principal partner of the now-defunct Chuan Kok Trading Co, she was responsible for financial matters. She and her two partners Chua Tian Cho and Chua Kok Leong were entitled to share equally in the profits of the business.

The court heard that she deliberately left out some of the credit sales for YA2005 when she wrote the accounts in the partnership's 2004 sales book. She excluded from her handwritten accounts $483,091 in profit.

When she filed her income tax returns in April 2005, she falsely declared that her share of divisible profit was only $28,176. She under-reported $161,030 and was undercharged $29,396 for her taxes for YA2005.

Similarly for YA2006, she deliberately left out a sum of $481,950 in profit from credit sales made by the partnership in its 2005 sales book.

She falsely declared in her income tax return that her share of divisible profit was only $56,822. She omitted $160,650, which was her share of the profit. She was undercharged $29,709 in taxes.

Chua had to pay a total of $784,264 in back taxes and penalties for all the offences she committed, including those over goods and services tax, said the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) in a statement.

Her two partners also under-reported their share of income in their individual tax returns and had to pay Iras back taxes and penalties.

ELENA CHONG

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Anti-gambling Bill unlikely to be strong curb in long term

Straits Times
14 Sep 2014
Lim Yan Liang

At a recent gathering of friends, a normally garrulous buddy would tap on his mobile phone whenever the conversation bored him.

When I asked him what he was doing, he said he had been playing a round of Texas Hold 'Em, a popular form of online poker, and had just won a few dollars.

Nobody found it odd. After all, it was his phone, his money and his choice.

Like other casual online gamblers I spoke to last week after the Remote Gambling Bill was introduced in Parliament, he had cashed out his winnings at various gambling websites, worried that he would have trouble doing so when the Bill passes.

At first blush, it looks like the Bill has already succeeded: The twin threats of jail and not being able to cash out one's online winnings appear enough to deter most casual gamblers.

The proposed blocking of prominent gambling sites will also deter impulse gambling by making it harder to access such sites.

But I doubt that the Bill as currently drafted will be a very strong deterrent in the long term.

First, consider the likely profile of an online gambler.

Studies worldwide - including an Australian one published in March - have shown that online gamblers are most likely male, in their 20s to 40s and tech-savvy; they are likely to hold multiple accounts across gambling portals and access them using various devices.

Like my friend, they know how to get around website blocks.

The Bill requires overseas websites to ensure that their customers are neither gambling from Singapore nor minors - or face prosecution. But the requirement is unlikely to be effective as a person can mask the country he is in by using technological tools. On websites that check a user's age, few heed notices that tell them to leave if they are under 21. As for compelling banks to block payments to gambling sites, banks and credit card issuers here have been doing so for years.

Yet, some Singaporeans still gamble with impunity because once transactions are routed through online payment processors and e-wallets such as PayPal and Neteller, banks cannot tell who is receiving the money. In the event that the police find a way to track such transactions, they still have to grapple with the sheer number of payment providers online. One popular gambling website has over 40 accepted payment methods, with at least half available to Singaporeans.

Even if most e-wallet companies - which have no presence here and thus no obligation to obey the authorities here - comply with the proposed law, this will not deter online gamblers who use other ways to settle their accounts.

A popular way for Singaporeans to cash in and out of their online gambling accounts is to buy and sell funds to gamblers on the same website.

Like trading virtual goods in an online game, such transfers attract no fees, and bank transfers are between private individuals.

And this week, a PayPal subsidiary started accepting crypto-currency bitcoin, which will lead to greater anonymity for gamblers.

What then, is a better way of curbing unauthorised online gambling here?

Given the proliferation of gambling websites, it is impossible to block all gambling sites.

To meet the Bill's aim of protecting the young, telcos should be required to ensure that customers who are under the age of 21 do not go to gambling sites, by monitoring mobile data activity on their smartphones and tablets.

The telcos can do this because they would have biographical details such as the age of their subscribers.

Should limited online gambling options be allowed here, the options need to be comparable to what is in the market today, or some Singaporeans will still patronise such sites, even if they are deemed illegal.

As one expert said: "The problem is that the genie has been let out of the bottle, and it is very difficult to put him back."

yanliang@sph.com.sg

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Kong tried to hide Xtron-church links, says prosecution

Straits Times
09 Sep 2014
Joyce Lim

CITY Harvest founder Kong Hee wanted to hide the church's transactions with Xtron to avoid questions from the authorities, the prosecution said yesterday.

"The reason you were trying to sweep the transactions with Xtron under the carpet is because that's what you do if your house is dirty and a visitor might be turning up unexpectedly, correct?" asked Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong, as the trial resumed with Kong continuing to be cross-examined.

The prosecution argues that the senior pastor did not want Xtron to be linked to the church.

Kong, together with five others, faces various charges of allegedly misusing some $50 million of church funds to boost his wife Ho Yeow Sun's music career and cover up the alleged misuse.

Kong disagreed with the DPP, and said he had "asked a scrutiniser of the house" to check the house and the scrutiniser had said the house "was not dirty".

"I just didn't want any visitor to come," Kong said.

Kong disputed the DPP's characterisation of the scenario as sounding "so sinister".

"What we wanted to do is that we wanted to avoid any misperception or misconception, from the authorities," said Kong.

The court heard that in March 2010, Xtron's funding of Ms Ho's secular music career, which was purportedly part of the church's Crossover Project, drew flak online.

In response to allegations that the church's funds had been misused in bankrolling this project, Kong sought to pay off the cost of his wife's album which had essentially been funded through two companies, Xtron and Firna.

"Because the bloggers were just relentless in their attack on Xtron, on the Crossover, and the album is going to take a while to earn back all the money," said Kong.

He therefore asked his close friend, Indonesian businessman Wahju Hanafi, to pay off the album's cost.

Kong said he was "afraid, or concerned, that the authorities may also come in and start questioning the church or Xtron".

However, he did not deny the prosecution's assertion that he had spent "$13 million through the Xtron bonds and $11 million through the Firna bonds on the Crossover Project".

Nor did he deny he knew the building fund was short of $20 million that it would get back only when the album became "profitable".

Earlier, the prosecution had sought to prove how Firna bonds were in fact shams as it was the plan that church funds would be channelled to pay the interest on the bonds.

Kong disagreed and said there was every intention by Firna to fulfil its obligation to the church.

The prosecution is expected to wrap up its cross-examination of Kong today.

joycel@sph.com.sg

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ADV: Mediation and Expert Determination for Maritime Shipping

Singapore Law Watch
02 Sep 2014
MOOGAS

Legal community urged to cater to needs of financial institutions

Business Times
13 Sep 2014
Claire Huang

New NUS centre will contribute to development of better laws and regulation: Shanmugam

IT is very important for Singapore's legal sector to be able to cater to the needs of banks and financial institutions as the Republic further develops as one of the top five financial centres in the world.

Law Minister K Shanmugam made this point at Friday's launch of the National University of Singapore's NUS Centre for Banking & Finance Law.

He said that the banking and financial sector is one of the key planks of the Singapore economy - contributing about 12 per cent of the nation's gross domestic product and creating just under 200,000 jobs. The Republic is home to 200 banks and 700 financial institutions.

The minister said: "As issues confronting the financial industry become even more complex and esoteric, it becomes all the more important that the legal community is able to keep itself apprised of the latest developments."

Mr Shanmugam said that with the global regulatory landscape for the financial sector evolving and the expansion of compliance teams in financial institutions, the new centre should aspire to undertake relevant scholarship and applied research.

This would raise the profile and the use of Singapore law for the various financial transactions.

He pointed out that the new centre, besides acting as a convenor for practising lawyers, policymakers and academics from the region, would "contribute to the development of better laws and regulation".

Simon Chesterman, dean of the NUS Faculty of Law, said the idea to have this new centre, among others, was mooted about two years ago.

The centre, as a thought leader, would generate new insights, he added.

"As a platform, the centre will ensure these ideas have an impact beyond the words spoken at conferences or published in academic journals. Its ongoing engagement with the financial community will, we hope, ensure that those ideas have a measurable impact on the development and reform of banking and finance law regionally and globally," said Prof Chesterman.

Over the past five years, Singapore's legal sector has grown significantly, in part due to the need for banking and financial lawyers.

The value of legal services exported has risen 71.5 per cent, from S$363 million in 2008 to S$622 million in 2013. Similarly, the nominal value-add of the legal sector has grown by 40 per cent, from S$1.5 billion in 2008 to S$2.1 billion in 2013.

The Law Ministry will continue to develop initiatives to support law firms to develop international capabilities, said Mr Shanmugam.

One of the areas is dispute resolution and he said the Singapore International Mediation Centre and Singapore International Mediation Institute will be launched later in the year.

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10 weeks in jail for mum who entered S'pore illegally to get son

Straits Times
09 Sep 2014
Elena Chong

A LONDON-based mother who defied a Singapore Family Court order and tried to take back her two-year-old son from his paternal grandparents by sea was jailed for 10 weeks yesterday.

The 30-year-old - who cannot be named to protect the child's identity - is involved in a bitter divorce with the boy's father and admitted entering Singapore illegally, hiring a catamaran in Malaysia to try and get the boy out of the Republic.

She had been helped by the Child Abduction Recovery International organisation, whose British managing director Adam Christopher Whittington, 38, was jailed for 16 weeks after he admitted to three out of seven charges relating to the failed plan.

He had chartered the vessel in Langkawi, Malaysia, and its master, Australian Todd Allan Wilson, 39, was jailed for 10 weeks after admitting to allowing the mother to disembark from the vessel at Raffles Marina.

The mother had approached Whittington in June and told him she could not enter Singapore by the usual immigration channels as she feared being arrested because her husband had made police reports against her.

The court heard last week that earlier this year, Britain's High Court had ordered that the boy be returned to London under his mother's care.

But instead of going through correct legal procedures, Whittington chartered the catamaran, and the trio sailed to Singapore last month.

After landing at Raffles Marina in Tuas West Drive, Whittington and the mother took a cab to the block where her in-laws live.

When they came out with the child, Whittington tried to serve the 66-year-old grandfather with a copy of the British court order. The mother tried to prise the child from him, but the grandfather resisted. Whittington then grabbed him around the neck.

She eventually managed to take her son, but not before his 68-year-old grandmother clung to the strap of Whittington's bag in a scuffle at the lift landing. Whittington applied pressure to her neck with his fingers.

The trio were arrested the next day. The Straits Times understands the boy is still in his grandparents' custody here.

The woman apologised in court yesterday, saying: "I want to see my son. I am exhausted. Every night, I can't sleep as I keep thinking of my son. If my son can speak, I am sure he will say, 'Mummy, come pick me up.' "

Yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Ailene Chou said she and Whittington deliberately avoided Singapore's immigration laws and conceived the plan to smuggle the child overseas.

Whittington visited Singapore in June to recce the grandparents' block and Raffles Marina. He realised the marina was protected by an armed guard between 9am and 5pm, and he deliberately planned to enter outside those hours.

The DPP said due weight should be given to Wilson's help, as the plan could not have been carried out without him.

She said: "They could have tried to go through legal channels under the Family Court but chose not to do so and deliberately chose to enter Singapore illegally."

Despite the fact that the mother was under legal advice, no effort was taken to register the British court order in Singapore or to take action in the Family Court.

District Judge Liew Thiam Leng, who backdated the trio's sentences to when their remand began on Aug 21, said the case was "meticulous and well-planned".

elena@sph.com.sg

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More Singaporeans making end-of-life preparations

Straits Times
01 Sep 2014
Janice Tai

Rise attributed to higher awareness of options, increasing ease of application

WHETHER it be instructing medics to turn off life support or relatives to make decisions if mental ability deteriorates, more Singaporeans are taking active steps to get their end-of-life papers in order.

More than 2,500 people applied for the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) from April last year to March this year.

Only 655 people did so in the same timeframe three years ago.

An LPA is a legal document that allows one's next of kin to make key decisions on their behalf should they lose the mental ability to do so.

Figures obtained from the Ministry of Health (MOH) also show that 1,800 people signed an Advance Medical Directive (AMD) - a form of "living will" - last year, up from 500 a decade ago.

An AMD aims to minimise suffering by indicating that people do not want their lives artificially prolonged should they become unconscious while terminally ill.

Figures from MOH show that as of the end of last year, over 18,700 people had made an AMD.

About 6,500 have made an LPA to date, according to the Office of the Public Guardian which maintains the LPA registry.

Those who work with the elderly or terminally ill attributed the rise to greater awareness of these documents, and increasing ease and affordability of applying for them.

More people are aware that they have these end-of-life options as a growing number of doctors are trained to administer them and are also encouraging their patients to plan early.

Professor Kua Ee Heok, senior consultant at National University Hospital, said he makes it a point to discuss the LPA with patients who are 65 and older.

Dr R. Akhileswaran, chief executive of HCA Hospice Care, said all its doctors, nurses and medical social workers are trained in advance care planning, with some doctors authorised to issue LPA certificates.

"This makes it easier for patients to discuss the AMD, LPA or other ways of advance care planning whenever they wish to and take the next steps," he said.

It is also cheaper and easier to apply for an LPA now.

From today, the $50 registration fee for the basic form for the LPA will be waived for two years.

Used by more than 97 per cent of applicants, this has also been simplified and cut from 15 pages to eight.

Health-care workers say it is a good sign that more are willing to make end-of-life preparations now because people are losing their mental faculties earlier.

In 2011, 44 per cent of those who lost their mental capacity and needed the court to step in to appoint deputies to make decisions on their behalf - as they did not make an LPA - were 71 years old and above.

This year, the percentage for those above 70 shrank to 36 per cent.

Meanwhile, those between 35 and 70 years old who suffered mental deterioration increased to 59 per cent, up from 49 per cent in 2011.

"It could be due to diseases such as stroke or vascular dementia of which studies have shown are increasingly striking younger people," said Prof Kua.

Retiree Hey Bong Koi, 66, saw the urgency of making an LPA after a stressful experience dealing with his parents' assets.

When his dad died in 2010, his mum was meant to be the executor of his will. She was, however, certified as unable to do so because she had dementia.

The lawyer suggested that Mr Hey replace his mum as executor, but he needed to be appointed as her deputy by the court first.

It took him two years to get that done, due to legal procedures and having to get the consent of relatives based overseas. During this time, many decisions - such as on bank accounts and insurance - came to a standstill.

He and his wife have since applied for an LPA and AMD.

"I am relieved that we have done it," he said.

"Though it requires you to think carefully about who to appoint, it will save one a lot of hassle and anxiety down the road."

jantai@sph.com.sg

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Lawyer found guilty of misconduct after borrowing hundreds of thousands from client

TODAY
13 Sep 2014
Kok Xing Hui

SINGAPORE — A lawyer of more than 29 years’ standing has been found guilty of professional misconduct after he took two loans amounting to hundreds of thousands from a client.

Mr Ong Teck Ghee, the managing partner of law firm Ong & Lau, took S$150,000 from Madam Zhao Qian on Dec 19, 2011, to invest in a project he was involved in, which would yield her a S$54,000 profit. The pair had met in a social context in the previous month and Mr Ong had invited her for meals subsequently, where they carried out discussions on investments.

Shortly after, he approached her for a further S$500,000 investment although the amount she eventually handed over is in dispute. Mdm Zhao claimed she handed over the full sum in two tranches, but Mr Ong disputed this, saying he received only S$170,500.

Mr Ong was to have repaid the money for both loans to Mdm Zhao through a series of post-dated cheques, but many of them were dishonoured or stopped by the lawyer. After receiving only S$51,500 from Mr Ong, Mdm Zhao started legal proceedings against him in the High Court, and also lodged a complaint with the Law Society.

In a report released yesterday, the disciplinary tribunal hearing the complaint against Mr Ong noted that the main dispute in the matter was whether the pair’s relationship constituted a solicitor-client one. Under the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct) Rules, lawyers cannot borrow money or valuable security from their clients.

It found that Mdm Zhao was indeed a client, since certain exceptions to permitted borrowings from a lawyer were not met — for instance, a loan would be allowed if the person had sought independent legal advice.

The tribunal, which was presided by Senior Counsel Cavinder Bull, also pointed out why these safeguards against borrowings from lawyers were important. The nature of a solicitor’s professional standing is such that it engenders trust and confidence in him and clients need to be safeguarded against the “special influence” that a solicitor occupies, the tribunal said, in its 21-page report. The tribunal therefore ruled that there was cause of sufficient gravity for disciplinary action against Mr Ong for the two charges he faced. A Court of Three Judges will decide on the penalties.

This is not the first time Mr Ong has been embroiled in a financial dispute. In 2010, he had coaxed Mr Teo Bee Tiong into an investment agreement of S$450,000 — which, if successful within a year, would pay out S$900,000 to Mr Teo, and S$450,000, otherwise. When Mr Teo received nothing at the end of the 12-month period, he filed a suit against Mr Ong.

xinghui@mediacorp.com.sg

Copyright 2014 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Credit card swiped a second time? It's against privacy law

Straits Times
08 Sep 2014
Irene Tham

Public can now file report against retailers for collecting personal data

IT IS done so quickly that you might not even notice it. But that extra swipe of your credit card by some merchants compromises your personal data and breaches data protection laws.

Known in the industry as "double swiping", the second quick swipe of consumers' credit cards is typically done after credit-card transactions have been approved.

Merchants do this to record the mode of payment for accounting purposes and to collect cardholders' personal data for marketing purposes such as loyalty programmes.

Even though banks have been telling retailers to stop doing this in the past two years as the practice exposes consumers' personal data to security risks, many retailers have not stopped.

But today, new data protection legislation allows consumers to file a report against rogue merchants.

"If the merchant wants to collect personal data beyond what is needed for the payment, the merchant should get the consent of the customer," a spokesman for the Personal Data Protection Commission told The Straits Times.

The Personal Data Protection Act was fully implemented on July 2 to safeguard consumers against the wrongful collection, use and disclosure of personal data for marketing.

Last week, The Straits Times spotted several merchants, including eateries and toy shops, double-swiping cards.

The Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) said banks have asked merchants to consider alternative ways of collecting consumers' data. The Straits Times understands that some are dragging their feet as this involves changing the way they work and investing in new systems.

"Some merchants and retailers would need extra time to reconfigure their more complex systems," said Mrs Ong-Ang Ai Boon, ABS director.

Double-swiping undermines the latest advancements in card technologies. Credit card data now resides more securely in embedded computer chips instead of on magnetic stripes that can be skimmed by fraudsters.

Depending on how merchants design their cash registers, any information - from the cardholders' names to credit card numbers and card expiration dates - can be collected.

The double-swiping practice has left some consumers concerned about their privacy.

Engineer Ngiam Shih Tung, 47, said: "A credit card number and expiration date are all you need for a fraudulent transaction on some websites."

The Personal Data Protection Commission said it has not received any complaint about double-swiping so far.

Organisations found in breach of the Act could face a fine of up to $1 million.

itham@sph.com.sg

 

*****************Background Story *****************

 

CONCERNED CONSUMER

A credit card number and expiration date are all you need for a fraudulent transaction on some websites.

- Engineer Ngiam Shih Tung

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

New SGX trading rules: What you need to know

Straits Times
31 Aug 2014
Grace Leong

Navigating odd lots and minimum trading prices

The fallout from last October's penny stock crash has been immense, with billions of dollars lost, bitter recriminations flying, lawsuits launched and, now, a range of regulations that will affect investors of every stripe.

The sweeping regulations proposed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Singapore Exchange (SGX) do not lack for ambition in their scope.

As well as aiming to make investing in blue chips more active and affordable, they are geared towards curbing excessive speculation and market manipulation, improving the quality of listings, boosting transparency, and levelling the playing field for small investors.

The fear among some observers is that the new rules could further sideline investors and dampen already-thin trading volumes.

But the immediate concern for retail investors is to work out how to navigate these measures, the first of which - reducing board lot sizes - takes effect from Jan 19 next year.

Board lot size reduction

  • What is this?

This move cuts the minimum purchase "lot" of SGX-listed securities from 1,000 to 100 units.

That means you will be able to buy just 100 DBS shares, for example, instead of having to purchase a minimum of 1,000, which is the case currently. For example, to invest in pricier blue chips like DBS, which closed at $17.92 last Friday, you would need to put up $17,920 to buy 1,000 DBS shares. But under the new rule, you can buy 100 shares for $1,792.

  • How does it benefit investors?

This will make blue chips and index component stocks more affordable and help investors build portfolios with a smaller capital outlay.

Young investors with typically smaller cash reserves will have a wider range of equities to choose from, while longstanding investors can diversify further into blue chips.

For example, an investor could easily build an equity portfolio by buying 100 DBS shares, 200 Keppel Corp shares, 100 Jardine C&C shares and 300 Global Logistics Properties shares - all for an investable amount of $10,000.

Mr Vasu Menon, vice-president of wealth management in Singapore at OCBC Bank, said the change will allow investors with odd lots (100 shares and above) to sell the stock in the regular market instead of what is called the odd-lot market, where prices are at a discount to the market value.

Lot sizes of less than 100 shares will still have to be transacted in the odd-lot market.

"My sense is that investors here have become more sophisticated over the last few years, especially after the global financial crisis, and the decision to buy a stock depends on an individual's assessment of a stock's fundamentals and not just about its affordability," he said.

Minimum trading price for mainboard shares

  • What is this?

Mainboard-listed firms will need to have a minimum trading price of 20 cents from March next year.

  • How does it benefit investors?

This rule is aimed at curbing speculation as low-priced securities may be more susceptible to market manipulation. This will help retail investors.

  • What should investors bear in mind?

In the short term, it may create uncertainty, as investors have to consider whether the stock may be consolidated to comply with the new rule.

Consolidation involves a firm reducing the number of its outstanding shares, which in turn boosts the price.

As a result, investors may become wary about investing in stocks below 20 cents or just above 20 cents, said Mr Menon.

To mitigate the impact of this rule, investors should keep in mind the possibility of a company undergoing share consolidation if its share price is below 20 cents, to avoid getting odd lots.

Otherwise, they may have to sell their odd lots in the odd-lot market, where prices tend to be below fair value and there is little liquidity, said remisier Alvin Yong.

For example, if you buy 50,000 shares at five cents apiece, and the firm does a share consolidation of 4:1 to get the value to the minimum trading price of 20 cents, you will be left with 12,500 shares.

Under the new rules, where the minimum lot size is now 100 instead of 1,000, there is no odd lot. But if you buy 51,000 shares of the same company at the five-cent price and it undergoes a share consolidation of 4:1, then your new shareholding will be 12,750. That leaves an odd lot of 50 shares.

If you already own shares in odd lots, you could buy more shares in the odd-lot market and round up the holding to a normal lot, Mr Yong said. Alternatively, you could sell the odd lots in the odd-lot market.

"Investors should take into consideration the likelihood of the company undergoing a share consolidation if the share price is below 20 cents. For instance, if the share price is 5.5 cents, then the share consolidation ratio will likely be 4:1. If it is 13 cents, then the ratio is likely to be 2:1," added Mr Yong.

Move to collateralised trading

  • What is this?

From mid-2016, when SGX launches its new Post-Trade System, investors will have to post at least 5 per cent collateral on unsettled positions by the end of a trading session. That means if you want to buy 1,000 DBS shares costing $18,310, you will have to put up $915.50 as collateral in cash, stock or bank guarantee.

This replaces the current rules which allow contra trading, where investors are permitted to buy shares without cash upfront and resell them within three days, pocketing the profit or paying up the loss rather than the full sum.

  • How does it benefit investors?

It lowers the trading loss risk to brokers, that is, when their clients default. It also forces What should investors bear in mind?

It may create more hassle for investors, who have to pre-fund their accounts (with cash, for example) to meet the requirement prior to trading, although this may not dampen retail participation if there is money to be made in the market, said Mr Alvin Tham, head of equity products, consumer banking group, at DBS Bank.

It is, however, possible for investors to use their stock portfolio as collateral. But that is contingent on them having already transferred shares to their broker under a nominee or subsidiary account.

"Plus, not every broker offers this service yet," Mr Yong, the remisier, said.

gleong@sph.com.sg

 

*****************Background Story *****************

 

MEASURES TO STRENGTHEN MARKET

Goal: To curb the speculative nature of so-called "contra trading", a practice unique to Singapore and Malaysia.

This involves traders buying shares without cash upfront and reselling them within three days, pocketing the profit or paying up the loss rather than the full sum. Critics say this practice encourages highly speculative trading. About 31 per cent of the total trading value in the year to October 2013 came from contra trades.

  • From mid-2016, contra trading will be replaced by collateralised trading when SGX launches its new Post-Trade System. An investor will have to post at least 5 per cent collateral on unsettled positions by the end of a trading session. That means if an investor wants to buy 1,000 DBS shares costing $18,310, he will have to put up $915.50 as collateral in cash, stock or bank guarantee.
  • From March next year, mainboard-listed firms will need to have a minimum trading price of 20 cents. This will help to reduce the risk of excessive speculation and potential market manipulation as stocks can be traded at as low as 0.1 cent now. To allow for smooth implementation, there will be a 12-month transitional period. An estimated 200 firms may be affected.
  • The minimum lot size for trading will be cut from 1,000 shares to 100 shares from Jan 19 next year. This will make it easier for retail investors to buy pricier blue chips.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Lai Siu Chiu recounts her four decades in law

Lianhe Zaobao
13 Sep 2014
Poh Lay Hoon

This article was first published on 7 September 2014 in the Singapore Mandarin broadsheet, Lianhe Zaobao.
SLW commissioned a translation to give the legal community a view of legal reports from different Singapore news outlets.

Face-to-Face

"Talks fast, walks fast, handles things fast". These words could be used to describe the working style of retired Supreme Court Judge, Lai Siu Chiu, 65.

She was appointed as a Judicial Commissioner of the Supreme Court in 1991, the first female to hold the post and also the youngest at the time.

Three years later, she made history again by becoming the first female Supreme Court Justice in Singapore.

Before her retirement at the end of October last year, Lai Siu Chiu contributed a song at a charity concert held in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the Singapore Academy of Law.

She has continued to contribute to the nation after shedding her judge's robes, while keeping a low profile. Starting from the middle of this month, she will take up an appointment as a member of the Presidential Council for Religious Harmony for a term of three years.

This petite 40-year law veteran sits for a heart-to-heart interview with Lianhe Zaobao, her first with local mainstream media. She talks about matters ranging from her profession, her difficult decision not to hear criminal cases, and several sad court cases.


"I'm a very private person and I don't like publicity. That is why you will not see me in those magazines for socialites, such as Tatler and Prestige."

"I like to travel and I am also very fond of classical music. I am a member of the Friends of the SSO. I seldom read for pleasure. I mainly read law reports and law articles."

"Having come from a small place like Malacca, I would never have expected that I would one day become a Singapore Supreme Court Justice. I feel that I have been very fortunate."

"My mother passed away in 1988. When I was appointed as Judicial Commissioner in 1991, my brother told me that if my mother had been alive, she would have been very proud of me. I lost my father at a young age and it was my mother who raised my siblings and me. Though my mother was illiterate, she managed the family very well."

"I like to keep myself busy. I'm on the panel of arbitrators at the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC). I've been fortunate to get arbitration work soon after I retired and it is still ongoing. I also do volunteer work. After my retirement, the Ministry of Home Affairs invited me to become a member of the board of the Yellow Ribbon Fund."

"Although I am impatient, I could be very patient with litigants in person,   because without a lawyer to represent them, these people would be at a disadvantage. I didn't want such litigants to feel their opponents had better chances of winning cases than them because of having legal counsel. "

The above are some of the introspective comments shared by former Supreme Court Justice Lai Siu Chiu in her first interview with local mainstream media after retiring from the bench almost a year ago. Usually very private, the first female Judicial Commissioner and Justice of the Supreme Court of Singapore shares her thoughts on the law profession, cases that she has heard and her memorable experiences...

Q&A

What do you find intolerable?

Rudeness of course. Lawyers who are rude not only to the bench but to their opponents and to the witnesses. I get very angry with lawyers who try to bully the witness; they raise their voice, they try and harangue the witness to get the answers they want. I tell them stop it immediately. I say, even I do not scold a witness unless there is some reason. How dare the lawyer scold the witness? Interpreters are also not allowed to scold witnesses. At one time, I told the head interpreter, it's my prerogative as a judge to do so, but I do not scold the poor witnesses. I said I was shocked that his interpreter actually scolded a witness!

Which lawyers would you consider good role models for others?

I will not name names, but I would say that the older generation of lawyers are good role models for younger lawyers. They are never late for court, are polite and respectful, do not argue with the judge, and do not treat opposing counsel discourteously. They may mock their opponent but they know the limits. It is a shame that most of them are over 70 and seldom come to court now.

Are there things about the legal sector that give you concern?

Dishonest behaviour by lawyers is a matter of concern. I get worried when I see cases of lawyers running away with their clients' money. One seldom sees veteran lawyers doing this. Such cases invariably involve young lawyers. What can one do? Do we teach them in postgraduate courses or do we need to instil something in them? I do not know. The Law Society has tried its best.

Another problem is the growing number of lawyers choosing corporate law, because mergers and acquisitions and financial services are very lucrative. This has meant a corresponding decline in the number of litigation lawyers. If a lawyer shows up in court for a case and is ill-prepared, he or she may get a dressing down from the judge. If a witness’ oral testimony differs from his affidavit evidence not because he is untruthful but because it is his first time in court and he is frightened, you could lose the case for your client even though it is not your fault, and you then have to face up to the consequences. Clients who lose a case may refuse to pay your fees. These are all the risks that litigation lawyers face.

What are your views on young lawyers?

Young lawyers are always in a hurry. They forget that they took an oath when they became lawyers and they forget that the legal profession is something very sacred and noble.

I often get asked by parents: Justice Lai, my son or daughter wants to study law. What do you think? My first question would be: Why law?

Often, the answer would be that law allows one to earn a lot of money. I would not say anything but I would think: Oh my goodness! That is the wrong thinking! What is regrettable is that this has been the trend. Compared to doctors, engineers and other professions, the starting pay of lawyers is the highest, and this has led to this problem we have today.

People choose law not because of noble ideals, a desire to help defend the poor or to fight criminal cases, Rather, they see it as a profession that makes a lot of money, a cash cow. They think, I can work in a large law firm and once I achieve this objective, I can make partner quickly. This is a worrying trend.

Law is no longer a noble profession but one where you can dream of making your first million by the age of 30 if you work hard. When I started out, there were very few lawyers; I was the 280th! There are now four to five thousand lawyers. It has become an industry where competition is intense.

AS A JUDGE...

Do female justices hear cases differently compared to their male counterparts?

There is little difference in how male and female judges hear a case. However, I believe that female justices are relatively more knowledgeable about the price of goods in divorce cases involving maintenance. Justice Judith Prakash and I are especially careful and detailed when it comes to examining maintenance expenditures.

I once asked a male judge, do you know the prices of different brands of lipstick such as Maybelline and Estee Lauder? He looked at me and admitted that he did not. Therefore, when ruling on maintenance for wife and children, the court adopts a broad brush approach and will not scrutinise the price of each item in detail.

Justices Judith Prakash and Belinda Ang will be retiring in 2016 and 2019 respectively. I hope that other female justices will be appointed by then. Of course, this should be based on their ability and competence and not just for the sake of appointing a lady judge. It will be up to the Chief Justice to look for suitable candidates.

Why did you choose not to hear criminal cases?

I have strong views on sentences for certain offences and I was concerned that my emotions would override my logic. This would not be fair to the accused. That was why I insisted on not hearing criminal cases.

I also found criminal cases very dreary but commercial cases are highly interesting. I dealt with all sorts of commercial cases and I did everything. In Hokkien, they call it "bao ka liao".

In the commercial fraud cases that I have seen, I saw people using all sorts of tricks and coming up with highly creative ideas to cheat their directors, partners or banks. It was shocking! That is why artificial intelligence such as computers and robots will never be able to replace humans. They do not have the ingenuity of the human mind. Though we may be judges, we also learn from our cases and from human nature.

"Some lawyers do not apologise if they are late"

Lai Siu Chiu is highly conscientious when it comes to how she treats others and deals with her affairs. She would apologise to lawyers if she kept them waiting for trials to start because she had to deal with chamber applications first, even though the delay was not her fault.

She noted that some lawyers have the habit of coming to court late. Quite a number of them would not even apologise when they do so.

One time, she needed to deal with 40 uncontested divorce cases. When it came to the sixth case, the lawyer was not in court when his matter was called. He came later but by then, he had lost his place in the queue and his matter was put at the bottom of the list.

"Because he chose not to be on time in court, he ended up waiting for more than two hours before his turn came. He learnt his lesson not to be late again for court."

Lawyer always gave same excuse that he was late because of difficulty getting a taxi

She remembers another lawyer who represented a defendant and who was always late. The hearings for his case lasted a week and despite Justice Lai's secretary calling his office every time, the lawyer always arrived late for the afternoon session. The same excuse given each time was he had difficulty getting a taxi.

"I decided not to wait for him any longer as there were other lawyers involved acting for other defendants. I would start the afternoon sessions without him as he was not cross-examining witnesses. When he realised the court would not wait for him any longer, the lawyer became punctual for both morning and afternoon hearings."

THREE SAD COURT CASES

1. Ownership dispute over family-run food court

Ang Kin Chiew had accused his parents and two brothers of not sharing the profits of their family food court business with him based on his shareholding. He took his family members to court but lost the case.

Justice Lai Siu Chiu had delivered a stern admonishment while giving her judgment: "This is a sad and worrying case. As the youngest of seven children, the plaintiff took his elderly parents and older siblings to court. I can only describe him as an unfilial son. He is Chinese, for which filial piety is the most important virtue. This is a traditional moral value of Asian society and the Chinese. In good traditional Chinese families, the young need to be filial to their parents and respect their elders." She even used the Chinese words for unfilial, "bu xiao shun", to criticise the plaintiff.

Why she found it sad:

"When I rebuked the plaintiff for being unfilial, my friends told me what I did was very good and I should have said what I did."

"The plaintiff seemed to be a weak person with no ability to operate a food court. He had to rely on his older siblings to do so. He was influenced by his wife and wanted to get a bigger share of the business. Thus he did this dreadful thing. His mother was very angry and berated him in Cantonese in court. He had looked down not daring to say a word. "

2. Tussle between mistress and sons over house

Two sons of the late Dr Wong Yip Cheong, founder of Adam Road Hospital, had gone to court in a tussle with his mistress over the ownership of an $8 million bungalow at Chancery Hill Road.

Justice Lai had ruled against the sons, finding that Dr Wong, who had dementia, was mentally competent when he signed the document transferring the house to his mistress. She criticised the brothers in court for trying to wrest their father's assets: "Your father would be heartbroken if he knows what is happening today!" The brothers subsequently lodged an appeal but this was dismissed.

Why she found it sad:

"This family dispute was very sad. I knew that Wong Yip Cheong was dying and could not reserve judgment. I gave an oral judgment on the eve of National Day, with the written grounds following later. He died two or three weeks later and his wife passed away several months following that."

 “As a court justice, we judge by the law and cannot pass moral judgment. It's not for me to say if he should not have had this mistress. Wong had met her when he was 40 and she was much younger at 19 years of age. Since he had promised her to give her the house, it was not right for his sons to try and take it back from her. That was very wrong."

3. Retired teacher sues bank

Hwang Cheng Tsu Hsu, a 92-year-old retired teacher from Chung Cheng High School (Main), had accused OCBC Bank of breach of contract in refusing to allow her to withdraw close to $9 million in deposits without good reason.

The bank had had doubts over her mental capacity and suspected that it was her adopted daughter who wanted the withdrawal and started the action. It thus froze the account on legal and moral grounds. Madam Hwang died in May 2010, around three weeks before the judgment was released. She lost the case. Her adopted daughter lodged an appeal, which was dismissed by the Court of Appeal. Madam Hwang's $10 million estate was ultimately inherited by her adopted daughter.

Why she found it sad:

“Madam Hwang treated her adopted daughter as her own but the evidence that came up in court was very sad. I read her medical reports and told the doctor, who was the witness, that she came across as such a lovely person, and the doctor agreed and said yes, she was such a delight. Unfortunately, she passed away just before I released my judgment. It was very sad."

BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS

• Born in Malacca. Youngest in the family with five brothers and two sisters. Three of her brothers are doctors. Among her siblings, she is the only one to have become a Singapore citizen.
• Lost her father at the age of 12. Brought up by her mother, who was keenly aware of the importance of education. Read law in university to achieve her ambition of becoming a lawyer.
• Completed her Cambridge Certificate and Higher School Certificate (HSC) in Malacca before reading law at the University of Singapore. Received her law degree in 1972.
• Called to the bar in 1973. Worked at Allen & Gledhill until April 1991, becoming one of a small number of female litigators at the time.
• Received her LLM from the University of London in 1977.
• Appointed as the first female Judicial Commissioner of the Supreme Court of Singapore on 2 May 1991.
• Became the first female Supreme Court Justice in 1994.
• Has two children. Husband is a surgeon.
• Positions held include Chairperson of the Children’s Charities Association, which comprises six member societies, and Chairperson of the Membership and Social Committee of the Singapore Academy of Law.
• Initiated "The LeX Factor – Law Has Talent" charity concert last year, which raised more than $300,000 for the Yellow Ribbon Fund.
• Retired from the bench on 30 October 2013.

pohlh@sph.com.sg

Source: Lianhe Zaobao © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

NUS admits about 600 students via discretionary route

Straits Times
08 Sep 2014
Sandra Davie

Grades not the only criterion as varsity seeks more diverse cohort

ONE in 10 students made it into National University of Singapore (NUS) this year because he or she showed attributes such as leadership skills and excelled outside the classroom in areas such as sports and community work.

The university, which interviewed a record 1,200 students, admitted about 600 of them - close to 10 per cent of the 2014 cohort and the maximum number allowed by the Education Ministry under a discretionary admission scheme.

University vice-provost for undergraduate education Bernard Tan explained why NUS was going all out to get a more diverse mix of students.

"Being exposed to people with different perspectives and views not only enhances their education but also prepares them for working life, which often requires them to relate to a diverse group of people," he said.

The same principle applies in the extremely competitive medicine and law faculties.

While NUS did not provide figures, it said in recent years that the two faculties had accepted students from a wider range of junior colleges, and more from the polytechnics.

For instance, a record 10 polytechnic students were offered places in medicine this year, out of a cohort of 300. Another 10 made it into law, which admits 250 students yearly.

Associate Professor Marion Aw, assistant dean for education at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, said: "Attributes such as compassion, empathy and ability to relate to people from all walks of life are important for those in health care.

"The broader admission process enables us to assess students better for these qualities."

Students applying to study medicine undergo a series of interviews to evaluate qualities such as empathy and teamwork, as well as how they make judgments in real-life scenarios.

Former Serangoon Junior College student Yeo Jia Zheng believes that despite his good A-level grades, it is the new admission process that landed him a place in medicine, as very few students from the lower-ranked junior colleges get in.

"Everyone has top grades, so I am glad that the multiple interviews allow you to show your other qualities," said the chatty and personable 19-year-old.

Ms Samantha Lek, 19, a Temasek Polytechnic student who was admitted into law, does volunteer work with young people now and hopes to become a community lawyer.

"Polytechnic students bring with them certain strengths and these don't always show on the results slip," said Ms Lek, who had top grades in the polytechnic.

Professor Tan stressed, however, that applicants considered through the discretionary process still need good grades. They may have fallen "behind by a few points", but interviews help highlight other qualities such as communication and leadership skills.

In addition to getting a more diverse mix of students through the discretionary admission scheme, the university also started offering two scholarships to attract students who excel in sports and the arts this year.

Six students were awarded sports scholarships, and three were given performing and visual arts scholarships. The awards cover tuition fees and living expenses, as well as co-fund short enrichment programmes.

Prof Tan said the awards are part of the university's efforts to broaden talent recognition, and are meant to spur the recipients to achieve greater heights in their sporting and artistic endeavours.

sandra@sph.com.sg

 

*****************Background Story *****************

 

WIDER EXPOSURE

Being exposed to people with different perspectives and views not only enhances their education, but also prepares them for working life, which often requires them to relate to a diverse group of people.

- Professor Bernard Tan, NUS' vice-provost for undergraduate education

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

S'pore Int'l Commercial Court will enhance options: CJ

Business Times
30 Aug 2014
Michelle Quah

SINGAPORE'S Chief Justice (CJ) says he hopes the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC), which the city-state intends to establish to hear international commercial disputes, will be like the iPad - "The thing you didn't know you needed until you had it, and (then) you realise, how did I live without it?"

Far from being facetious, CJ Sundaresh Menon was laying out just how he sees such a court functioning within the Singapore legal space, and the benefits it will bring to the local and international community.

The CJ was speaking on Friday at the launch of Arbitration in Singapore: A Practical Guide, a publication intended to be an essential tool for legal professionals involved in international or domestic arbitration in Singapore. Mr Menon is the editor-in-chief of the guide, which is published by Sweet & Maxwell, a Thomson Reuters business.

While the book is on arbitration - a method of dispute resolution where parties refer their dispute to an unbiased third party or impartial tribunal designated by the disputing parties - Mr Menon said he wanted to take the opportunity to talk about one of the "most interesting things affecting the Singapore legal sector in recent months" - the SICC.

The SICC was an idea first floated by Mr Menon in January 2013, to reinforce Singapore's position as a centre for dispute resolution. This followed a trip he made to London in September 2012, where he learned more about its Commercial Court.

He saw the need for an international commercial court sited here, in view of the rapid growth in international trade in the last 50 years or so and the resulting increase in international trade and commercial disputes.

"We might not have the hallowed history of London but we have ringside seats to one of the most exciting areas of development anywhere on the planet (Asia), and a legal and judicial system that's widely known for its integrity," Mr Menon said.

He stressed that the SICC will stand apart from the very successful Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC). "The SICC would provide parties and transnational businesses with one more among a suite of viable options for the resolution of transnational commercial disputes."

Among its differences from the SIAC: the SICC will exist as a division of the High Court, while featuring international judges and admitting international counsel; the SICC's judges, to be selected by the CJ and not by the disputing parties, will not be arbitrators; unlike arbitration, the SICC will offer a right of appeal, allow third parties to join, and its proceedings are expected to move along faster.

Mr Menon said there was room for an SICC, even with a highly successful SIAC. "The caseload of the London Commercial Court was burgeoning alongside the strong and steady growth of the London arbitration market. This led me to the conclusion that arbitration and a commercial court are not competing players in a zero-sum game. There is room for both. What users are looking for is the priceless commodity of trust and they're willing to travel to find it."

A panel, featuring some of Singapore's best-known international arbitration lawyers, discussed what such a court would do for Singapore.

Senior Counsel Philip Jeyaretnam, managing partner of Rodyk & Davidson, said the SICC will "both build on and extend the Singapore brand in the realm of dispute resolution and the perception of businessmen around Asia".

"What's in it for the profession? We hope to see more cases that are being resolved in Singapore one way or another and, therefore, have the opportunity to take part in those proceedings," Mr Jeyaretnam added.

Nish Shetty, a partner with Clifford Chance Asia, said having the right of appeal would be very attractive for clients, as would the ability for parties to choose their counsel - "counsel that may be familiar with the institutions that are in the dispute, counsel that may be familiar with cultural norms".

Picking up on Mr Shetty's point on choice of counsel was Senior Counsel Cavinder Bull, a director with Drew & Napier and the deputy chairman of the SIAC. "It presents an opportunity for the largest, most complex cases in the most dynamic region to be dealt with by the best team (of lawyers), without boundaries. That's good for Singapore lawyers because you get to be part of that team, (and) it's good for clients."

michquah@sph.com.sg

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Divorce case ends in unusual living arrangements for child

Straits Times
13 Sep 2014
K.C. Vijayan

Teen to shuttle between two homes 'to stem worsening of ties with mum'

A BOY'S refusal to live with his mother, whom he blamed for his parents' divorce, has led a judge to order an unusual living arrangement.

District Judge Regina Ow-Chang ruled that the 13-year-old will spend every week from Sunday afternoon to Friday evening with his father and live the other days with his mother.

This is to stop the boy's relationship with his mother from deteriorating further, she said.

The judge also had harsh words for the way his parents, who are appealing against the custody decision, made the child a pawn in their divorce.

"This is a sad and disturbing case where parties had been so caught up in their conflicts that the child had become a hapless victim of their marital war," she said in judgment grounds released last week. "This had resulted in him becoming an angry, obstinate and confused teenager."

The boy may have rejected living with his mother, going so far as to go to the police, yet cried during counselling sessions with her.

He blamed his mother for having a boyfriend, yet accepted his father having a mistress while still married, the judge pointed out.

The couple were married in 1999 and divorced last year after living apart for three years. Both fought to gain custody of their child.

The mother's lawyer K. Mathialahan argued how she was the primary caregiver for the first 11 years of his life, giving both financial and emotional support.

But the father's lawyer Jeyabalen disputed this, claiming the mother preferred to spend time with her boyfriend and treated their child as an errand boy.

The boy has not seen his mother since April last year other than one session in May. Five other such sessions were cancelled after the child refused to see her. The boy made police reports whenever it was time to see his mother through these arrangements.

"I cannot fathom how a father can encourage his young child to make police reports against his mother over civil access issues," said the judge. She also took issue with the father for letting the boy see court affidavits filed by his mother and for threatening to post court documents on Facebook, noting how this "threw light on his character".

The judge also noted that the boy was "clearly estranged" from his mother despite being close earlier on, and the onset of puberty may have coloured what he thought of his mother, and was aligning himself with his perceived "blameless" father.

She found this was an appropriate case to make a split care and control order, "instead of the usual care and control to one parent and access to the other".

Such a shared care and control order is usually not given unless it is in the child's interest and to help bond with the parent, said family lawyer Koh Tien Hua.

The norm is for the child to live with one parent, while the other parent is given access.

The judge said that if care and control were given to the father, the boy's link with the mother would "deteriorate even further".

She made clear a shared care and control order underlined that both had an equal responsibility to the child and each was not to exclude the other in the boy's life.

She ordered both parties not to run down each other in the boy's presence or do anything which would exclude the other parent from the life of the boy.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Surge in law grads: Foreign degrees 'more affordable'

Straits Times
06 Sep 2014
AMELIA TENG

Competition for jobs likely to rise as more locals head overseas to read law

MS RACHEL Leong, 24, is not the only one in her family to go overseas to study law.

Her older sister graduated from the University of Liverpool in 2005. Ms Leong finished her own degree at the same British university in 2012, and, their brother is now studying there.

They are part of a surge of locals going abroad to pursue a law degree. In Britain, the number of Singapore law students more than tripled from 350 in 2008 to 1,142 last year. The number going to Australia has also risen - from 303 in 2011 to 386 last year.

Because of this rise, returning graduates are facing far more competition - a point stressed by Law Minister K. Shanmugam recently.

He said the legal industry is not growing as fast as the number of students heading overseas to study law, which means a growing proportion may not get a job as a lawyer here.

Between 2009 and last year, 70 per cent of returning overseas graduates secured training contracts - a requirement before being called to the Bar.

"Families have become more affluent and they set aside more for their children's education," said Ms Angeline Joyce Lee, the previous president of the Singapore Corporate Counsel Association, and a lawyer for 23 years.

"And if their children do not meet the entry requirements for our local universities, they would consider overseas. Law remains a highly respectable profession that is coveted."

Starting salaries for young lawyers have also risen. Last year, top law firms were offering monthly pay packages of between $5,800 and $6,400, up from $5,200 in 2010. The average starting salary for local graduates last year was $3,200.

This has prompted many parents and students to believe that a law degree is a worthwhile investment. Overseas degrees have also become relatively more affordable in recent years, although tuition fees at British universities have been rising.

Ms Leong paid £8,700 annually but her brother is paying £10,000 (S$20,000).

But the pound has weakened, making studying in Britain cheaper. The fees, which would have cost Singaporeans about $30,000 in 2007, now cost around $20,000 due to the strengthening Singapore dollar.

Local household incomes have also increased by at least 10 per cent since 2007.

"My sister was one of three Singaporeans in her course. When I was there, it was about 10," she said, adding that the figure has risen to more than 20 in her brother's batch.

The number of foreign universities approved by the Government for the study of law has grown from 15 in 1994 to 35 now, giving students more choice.

National University of Singapore law dean Simon Chesterman believes the number of students going abroad to study law may not "continue to rise - and could fall", given that prospects are getting tougher.

"Parents may now think twice about spending money on a law degree abroad," he said. "Students have to manage their expectations, unless they have a first- class honours degree from Oxford or Cambridge."

But former Hwa Chong Institution student Lee Wei Sheng is sticking to his decision to read law overseas.

The 18-year-old, who completed his A levels last year, hopes to earn a spot at Cambridge or one of the other British universities.

"If I get a place, I will work extra hard so I can do well, especially now that I know there's so much competition and the talent pool is a lot wider," he said.

ateng@sph.com.sg

*****************Background Story *****************

LAW SCHOOLS OVERSEAS

Original list of approved universities in 1994

  • 15 in Britain, including University of Cambridge, University of Leeds and the London School of Economics and Political Science

Later additions 2001

  • Britain: School of Oriental and African Studies at University of London, University of Liverpool, University of Sheffield, University of Warwick
  • Australia: Monash University, University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales, University of Sydney
  • New Zealand: University of Auckland, Victoria University of Wellington

2003

  • Australia: Australian National University, Flinders University, University of Queensland, University of Western Australia

2005

  • Australia: University of Tasmania, Murdoch University

2006

  • US: Harvard University, Columbia University, New York University and University of Michigan

The Singapore Institute of Legal Education, a statutory board tasked with an ongoing review of this list, will submit its report soon.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Ngerng’s affidavit irrelevant, abuses process of court: PM Lee

TODAY
30 Aug 2014

SINGAPORE — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has responded to an affidavit filed by blogger Roy Ngerng, arguing that parts of the affidavit are “inadmissible, irrelevant and/or an abuse of the process of the court”.

Mr Lee, who is suing Mr Ngerng over his posts alleging misappropriation of Central Provident Fund monies, had filed a court application for a summary judgment to wrap up the case without calling on both the plaintiff and defendant to appear at a hearing.

In his reply to the affidavit, Mr Lee said Mr Ngerng had dealt with matters that are not relevant to the issues in the application for the summary judgment.

The affidavit, which was filed on Aug 4, was also “designed to advance (Mr Ngerng’s) political agenda, and contains legal arguments, which have no place in an affidavit”.

 “I have also been advised by my solicitors and verily believe that I should not dignify (Mr Ngerng’s) abuse of the process of this court by responding to matters which are inadmissible and irrelevant to the application,” Mr Lee wrote in his response dated Aug 20, a copy of which was sent to the media by Mr Ngerng. “I will therefore confine this reply to one factual matter.”

Referring to the affidavit, he said Mr Ngerng had taken issue with the request to remove two articles he had written in 2012 and last year, as the articles did not mention Mr Lee.

 “But the defendant is well aware of the reason he was asked to remove the two posts,” Mr Lee said. “It was set out in my solicitors’ letter dated May 26, 2014, to the defendant’s solicitors.”

In a statement, Mr Ngerng said: “As stated earlier, I have asked my counsel to resist the application vigorously.”

Copyright 2014 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

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Singapore Law Watch
13 Sep 2014
Kaplan

Mum of alleged sex abuse victim sued for defamation

Straits Times
06 Sep 2014
K.C. Vijayan

Jakarta school and 3 staff members seek damages in S'pore High Court

THE mother of an alleged victim in a sex abuse case in Jakarta is being sued for defamation in Singapore by the Jakarta International School and three staff members.

The school and the trio - Ms Elsa Donohue, Mr Neil Bantleman and Mr Fedinant Michel - are seeking damages from the mother, a German, according to papers filed in the Singapore High Court in July.

Five of the school's outsourced cleaning staff are accused of sexually abusing two boys in an ongoing trial in Jakarta. One of the alleged victims is the woman's son, aged six.

The woman, now in Jakarta as a witness in the trial, said her son was due to testify at the criminal trial, which is not related to the plaintiffs in the Singapore defamation suit.

The 33-year-old said she did not know why she is being sued here. She told The Straits Times: "I'm asking myself why they are suing me there, I was not even there. What's happening is in Jakarta, not Singapore."

She added she was a "protected witness" and her son "a protected victim" under Jakarta law in the ongoing trial in Jakarta.

She had lived for about two years till May in Jakarta, where her 41-year-old husband worked in a multinational firm.

The couple and their two young children spent about a month here on holiday in June and July this year, with plans to relocate to Singapore.

They later changed their minds and returned to Jakarta, pending a move to Europe.

Ms Donohue, an American national, is the elementary and kindergarten principal at the Jakarta school, while Mr Bantleman, a Canadian, is a school administrator and Mr Michel, an Indonesian, is a teaching assistant at the school's elementary campus.

The school, founded in 1951, is said to be the country's largest international school. It has 2,600 students, many of whom are children of well-off expatriates and Indonesians.

Media reports said Mr Bantleman, 45, and Mr Michel, 41, have been in police custody in Jakarta for more than 50 days, pending a probe into alleged sex abuse. Neither has been charged.

The school had in Julymade clear it stood by the duo.

The case has drawn wide interest from the media, as well as the British, American and Australian embassies in Jakarta.

The mother, who is the subject of the defamation suit, said her husband visits Singapore occasionally for work.

She added she had not been notified or received copies of the suit but had been told by a third party via SMS to expect a suit.

Lawyers from Tan Rajah & Cheah went to court last week and got approval to seek alternative ways to serve notice on her.

"We confirm that our clients have commenced an action in Singapore against (her) as the Singapore courts have jurisdiction," said lead counsel Chew Kei-Jin, without saying why the courts have jurisdiction.

The defamation claim is over statements she made against the plaintiffs which are false, he said, adding that the plaintiffs want damages to be assessed by the court. A notice was placed in The Straits Times last week to notify her of the suit.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Wee 'deceived brother about church business'

Straits Times
30 Aug 2014
Feng Zengkun

She hid information on church finances: Prosecution

FORMER Xtron accountant Serina Wee deceived her own brother to hide what was really happening between her firm and City Harvest Church.

After church member Roland Wee asked her where Xtron's money came from, his sister wrote to two church leaders to warn that others may also start asking similar questions.

"He can see from the business profile search that Xtron has $6,000,006 share capital. Where did the money come from? This is a question anyone looking at the accounts will ask," Wee said in the 2010 e-mail to the church's deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng and its fund manager Chew Eng Han.

"I couldn't tell him that Xtron had taken a ($10.7 million) bank loan for the Riverwalk purchase and (the share capital) was what the bank wanted... so I just told him it was from the shareholders."

This e-mail, which was later forwarded to church founder Kong Hee by Tan, was revealed by the prosecution yesterday, as it tried to show how Wee and the others had deceived the church's board and executive members, or hid information from them, as part of a cover-up.

The four of them, along with two others, face various charges for their part in allegedly misusing some $50 million of City Harvest's money to fund the music career of Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun, and to cover up the alleged misdeed.

Kong had told the church's executive members in 2008 that City Harvest would lend Xtron, a church-linked firm, $18.2 million so it could buy the Riverwalk property and rent it back to the church for meetings.

But Xtron had earlier already borrowed $13 million from the church to spend on furthering Ms Ho's music career.

When several of the accused realised that Xtron could not pay back the money in the two-year timeframe, they needed a way to change the loan's terms, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong.

So the accused allegedly came up with the $18.2 million Riverwalk deal, which was part of a revised loan agreement that subsumed the initial loan and gave Xtron 10 years to pay back everything.

The problem was that Xtron had spent most of it on Ms Ho's music and ended with only $8.5 million in new funds under the revised loan agreement.

That was not enough to buy the property.

So it took an additional bank loan of $10.7 million, even though church members were led to believe that the $18.2 million was enough for the property purchase, said Mr Ong.

"Looking at what Serina says (in her 2010 e-mail)... it appears that the bank loan had to remain a secret even 11/2 years after the Riverwalk purchase was first announced," he pointed out.

In a 2008 e-mail, Wee had also reminded several of her fellow defendants ahead of a meeting: "CHC cannot minute down anything about Xtron's bank loan as they are not supposed to be aware of this."

Kong yesterday admitted that the $10.7 million bank loan was not revealed to the church members. He also conceded that both the church's board and executive members were not told about a mortgage over the Riverwalk property which the bank had wanted as security for the loan.

He said he was not aware of the 2008 e-mail, which he did not receive, and could not comment on Wee's 2010 correspondence.

But the 50-year-old senior pastor added that "when it comes to the financing of Xtron, we would prefer to share as little as possible within the bounds of legality as advised by professionals".

If it was known that City Harvest was funding Ms Ho's secular music career, "it will affect her legitimacy", he explained.

The defence has consistently said Ms Ho's secular music was part of the church's Crossover Project to attract non-Christians to the church.

Kong also maintained that all of the church's loans to Xtron had been vetted by lawyers and auditors, who found nothing wrong.

The trial will resume on Sept 8 with Kong continuing to be cross-examined.

zengkun@sph.com.sg

 

*****************Background Story *****************

 

KEEPING SECRETS

He can see from the business profile search that Xtron has $6,000,006 share capital. Where did the money come from? This is a question anyone looking at the accounts will ask. I couldn't tell him that Xtron had taken a ($10.7 million) bank loan for the Riverwalk purchase and (the share capital) was what the bank wanted... so I just told him it was from the shareholders.

- Former Xtron accountant Serina Wee, in a 2010 e-mail to City Harvest Church's deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng and its fund manager Chew Eng Han

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Eratat seeks investigation details from China watchdog

Business Times
13 Sep 2014
Jamie Lee

Probe involves forged bank confirmation linked to the company's main subsidiary

[Singapore] ERATAT Lifestyle said on Friday that it has requested for more details on the investigations led by the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC), which last month found a forged bank confirmation linked to the company's subsidiary.

In August, the company said that CBRC in Fujian had highlighted that Eratat's main subsidiary, HMW, had forged an earlier bank confirmation, and handed this document to the auditor of the group.

This followed an earlier announcement of a cash discrepancy at HMW. It showed the unit's cash balance was 73,321.63 yuan (S$15,079) as at last Dec 31, instead of 577 million yuan as indicated in an earlier document issued by ABC Bank, the subsidiary's bank in China.

The discrepancy was highlighted by an investigation by the Chinese bank, which also noted that the unit had bank borrowings of 34 million yuan as well as trade bills of 30 million yuan as at Dec 31, 2013.

Eratat's board responded then that this was "contrary to the understanding of the board, as the management has not reported any bank borrowings previously and there were also no such indications in prior bank confirmations obtained by the company's auditors".

On Friday, Eratat said that it has requested a revocation of the reply from CBRC; an investigation of the significant discrepancies; details of the investigation procedure undertaken by CBRC, and the evidence obtained by them; as well as supporting documents relating to HMW's account held with ABC for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Earlier this year, the China-based company failed to make interest payments on its bonds, and could not even raise enough funds to pay for a special audit. Its last interim chief executive, Ho Ker Chern - who was put in place to verify the group's cash balances and oversee investigations - resigned in end-May after not being paid for months.

Trading of Eratat's shares has been halted since January.

leejamie@sph.com.sg

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Widow 'left $40m assets to tour guide'

Straits Times
06 Sep 2014
Carolyn Khew & Toh Yong Chuan

Niece locked in legal fight over estate discovers will

AN 87-YEAR-OLD widow who owns a $30 million bungalow in Seletar Hills has left everything to a tour guide she met in China in 2008.

This was revealed in a will that was recently discovered by the widow's niece Hedy Mok, who is locked in a legal tussle over control of the elderly woman's estate.

The will, which The Straits Times was given access to, was made by Madam Chung Khin Chun in 2010, two years after meeting Mr Yang Yin while on holiday in Beijing in 2008.

In the will, the widow said she regarded the 40-year-old as a "grandson" and appointed him the sole executor of her estate on her death.

She said she would "bequeath (her bungalow) and all the contents inside, including (her) painting and art collections... to Yang Yin absolutely".

Mr Yang, a Singapore permanent resident, was also given permission to sell the Gerald Crescent house, which is on a 32,000 sq ft compound, and to keep all the proceeds for himself if he cannot get official permission to own the landed home because he is a foreigner.

Madam Mok, 60, said the will was discovered among Madam Chung's personal effects on Tuesday.

Earlier that day, Madam Mok had told Mr Yang's 34-year-old wife to leave the bungalow, where she and their two young children had been living for the last year.

Mr Yang, who moved in with Madam Chung in 2009, was overseas at the time. He is believed to have returned to Singapore but has yet to respond to calls from The Straits Times.

Madam Mok alleges that Mr Yang had taken advantage of her aunt's feelings for him and her state of mind. Madam Chung was diagnosed with dementia this year.

The niece has applied to the court to revoke the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) given to Mr Yang by the widow.

The LPA hands Mr Yang control over Madam Chung's assets, which are believed to be worth $40 million.

He has yet to respond to the allegations publicly, but his wife said on Tuesday that her husband had been taking care of Madam Chung for the last five years.

According to Madam Mok, a copy of an earlier will made in 2009 was also discovered. This document was also seen by The Straits Times.

In it, the widow wanted to set up a charitable foundation in memory of her husband, Dr Chou Sip King, who died in 2007.

The foundation was to make yearly donations to charities such as the Community Chest of Singapore, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Singapore Zoo.

The childless couple were animal lovers, said those who knew them.

There were no provisions for Madam Mok in the earlier will, but Madam Chung left instructions to two lawyers to provide for her long-time friend, Madam Chang Phie Chin, for life.

The 84-year-old Madam Chang, who lived with her friend in the bungalow from 2004 to 2011, had hired Mr Yang as a personal tour guide for them during their trip to China.

She had first met him in 2005 during a trip to Shanghai.

In an affidavit filed with the courts, the former Chinese language teacher has accused Mr Yang of taking advantage of the widow for his own gain.

Madam Mok, who owns a travel agency, told The Straits Times yesterday: "I am talking to my lawyers about the will."

kcarolyn@sph.com.sg

tohyc@sph.com.sg

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

More lawyers needed to help needy accused

TODAY
29 Aug 2014
Amanda Lee

Extended legal aid scheme will require twice the number of volunteers, says Law Society

SINGAPORE — Eight months after the Government announced it would directly fund legal aid to benefit 6,000 accused persons annually — or half of the total number of cases here in a year — the scale of the work expected of lawyers volunteering their time became clearer yesterday.

The expansion, which is targeted to be achieved within five years of its implementation, translates to a 15-fold jump in the current workload under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (CLAS). But the Law Society of Singapore thinks a pool of volunteer lawyers of twice the current size — 530 — will be able to handle it. This means each lawyer offering pro bono services under CLAS has to take on at least 11 cases a year.

In contrast, the 265 volunteer lawyers under CLAS handle about 400 cases a year, or fewer than two cases each annually.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, LawSoc president Lok Vi Ming set a three-year target to double its number of volunteer lawyers under CLAS.

To get more volunteer lawyers on board the scheme, LawSoc said honorariums — a nominal allowance, in other words — and training schemes would be provided.

Apart from full representation, “unbundled services” — such as doling out legal advice or rendering assistance outside court appearances, such as crafting a mitigation plea — would be provided, Mr Lok added.

Last December, when the Government announced that it would enhance CLAS with more funding, the scheme’s chairman Abraham Vergis pointed out that there were insufficient volunteer lawyers to “cope with the substantial number of needy and deserving cases ... that could have benefited from some form of legal representation”.

He added that it would be a challenge to get more lawyers to commit sufficient time to criminal legal aid work.

Yesterday, however, Mr Lok, who is a senior counsel, painted a different picture. He said: “We have not turned away anyone who needs legal assistance because we don’t have enough volunteers — we don’t have that situation.”

From Sept 1 last year to July 31, LawSoc received 1,713 aid applications, of which 451 cases were granted help.

Commenting on LawSoc’s plans, lawyers welcomed the move to extend legal aid. Mr Josephus Tan, who has received awards for the amount of time he commits to pro bono work, said the “utopia” would be a situation where every person charged in court is represented, regardless of his background or financial circumstances.

Asked to comment on the potential significant increase in the workload for volunteer lawyers under CLAS, Ms Rita Niranjan pointed out that whether lawyers could take up to 11 CLAS cases a year “depends on the nature of the cases”.

Those that go to trial tend to take more time, she said. “It doesn’t really matter (whether they are CLAS cases), these people really need help.”

However, lawyers wondered whether LawSoc’s plans to spur more lawyers to give their time would be effective. The issue of getting more lawyers to provide pro bono services has been hotly debated in recent years, with a recommendation by a high-powered committee to mandate a minimum number of voluntary hours widely opposed by the fraternity.

Mr Ramesh Tiwary felt the disbursement of honorariums would not encourage more lawyers to join the scheme. “The people who have been devoting their time to CLAS are doing it out of (sheer) passion and I don’t think the money will encourage anybody who has not previously taken up a CLAS case to take up (one),” he said.

Mr Choo Zheng Xi added that while honorariums would help defray costs, the majority of lawyers who are doing pro bono work “do it for the satisfaction of increasing access to justice”.

Asked whether making pro bono services a requirement would boost the number of volunteer lawyers available, lawyers noted that it would not serve the spirit of the law since the work rendered would not come from a dedication to help an accused person.

Said Mr Choo: “Pro bono should come from the heart ... you don’t want to be represented by a lawyer who doesn’t want to do your case.”


People with intellectual disabilities to get help dealing with police

By the first quarter of next year, trained professionals such as social workers will be allowed to accompany people with intellectual disabilities when their statements are being recorded at all six police land divisions.

This follows a successful pilot of what is known as the Appropriate Adult Scheme at Bedok Police Division from June to November last year. It was among the initiatives the Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc) announced would be expanded under its Justice for All project.

Separately, LawSoc aims to make legal knowledge more accessible to the public. For instance, it intends to step up engagement with the public through partnerships with the Community Development Councils.

It will also roll out a mobile legal clinic by next year targeted at helping local and foreign commercial sex workers.

In the schools, LawSoc will develop new topics for a project catered for schoolchildren, highlighting their rights and obligations under Singapore’s laws and informing them of the consequences of juvenile delinquency. Since its inception in July 2012, more than 15,000 students from 35 schools have taken part in the programme.

leeguiping@mediacorp.com.sg

Copyright 2014 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Why the chips are down for online gambling

Straits Times
13 Sep 2014
Walter Sim

Online gambling will be outlawed here if a new Bill is passed.

ONLINE gambling addict "Benson" was at his wits' end two years ago, having incurred a spiralling debt from his insatiable habit.

On the precipice, he made a decision that wrecked his marriage - he sold off his four-room Housing Board flat and squandered his share away on football bets within a week.

"My wife was so heartbroken that she left me," the 45-year-old father of one, who declined to give his surname, tells Insight. "She said that she could never trust me ever again."

The divorce made him come to his senses. He joined a support group at Blessed Grace Social Services' Gamblers Recovery Centre, quit gambling, and is now working on mending ties with his 10-year-old son.

It is tragic social plights such as this that the Government wants to prevent in tabling the Remote Gambling Bill in Parliament on Monday. Under the Bill, remote gambling is defined as gambling through the Internet, telephone, or any other forms of communication technology.

If passed in its current form, Singapore will be adopting what is arguably the strictest anti-online gambling regime in the world, observers say. Few, if any, jurisdictions have adopted such a multi-pronged approach in blocking websites, financial payments and advertisements.

For the betting public, many of whom are football fans who love a flutter on their team, the fines alone would present quite a penalty zone. Punters caught placing bets online could be fined up to $5,000 and jailed up to six months.

Anyone who abets a person under 21 to gamble remotely could be fined between $20,000 and $300,000 and jailed six years.

Gambling experts tell Insight that the litany of measures will effectively "choke the lifeline of the industry here".

MPs who gave it the thumbs up include Mr Christopher De Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), who calls it a "positive and bold move".

The WongPartnership lawyer, who is a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Home Affairs and Law, notes: "We should guard against excessive gambling, regardless of the means."

MP Denise Phua (Moulmein- Kallang GRC), who chairs the Social and Family Development GPC, says the growth in online gambling here has become a "cause for concern".

She adds: "The Government is absolutely taking the right and necessary step to provide a legislative framework to regulate remote gambling activities."

British-based Global Betting and Gaming Consultants (GBGC) estimates the remote gambling industry here will rake in US$416 million (S$526 million) this year - up by more than 50 per cent from the US$271.58 million in 2009.

While still a fraction of the US$6 billion in gaming revenues earned by the two casinos last year, observers praise the Government for its proactive approach in nipping the problem in the bud.

The laws will deter the average Singaporean from placing an online bet, rather than serial gambling addicts who will find ways and means to game the system, says Mr Jonathan Galaviz, managing director of Las Vegas-based Global Market Advisors, which specialises in economics and government strategies in casino gaming, airlines and technology.

Acknowledging that blocking websites and barring online payments is a complex task, he points out: "Just because it will be difficult to enforce doesn't mean you don't enforce it. The blanket laws instill confidence that (the Government) is protecting its citizens, rather than upholding the pretense that it is doing all it can."

Ms Phua, who has been vocal in Parliament about casino issues, adds: "Even if these will not completely curb online gambling, they will discourage the layman from trying and signal that this is not something encouraged in our society."

How the chips have fallen

INDUSTRY watchers believe there could be a link between the opening of the two casinos here in 2010 - after a decades-old ban was overturned - and the rise in online gambling.

"Generally speaking, when something is legalised in society, it brings greater awareness of the issue to citizens," says Internet law expert Hannah Lim Yee Fen of the Nanyang Technological University. "Since it's in public consciousness, the mental psyche could have been: 'If I can gamble at the casinos, then I can do it in the comfort of my own home'."

Nascent concerns that the casinos would fuel problem gambling do not appear unfounded. This is despite the social safeguards in place, such as a $100 entry levy for Singaporeans and permanent residents, as well as exclusion orders for compulsive gamblers.

Consider the statistics: Since 2011, the number of people barred from casinos here has more than quadrupled to a high of 215,331 this year. The National Problem Gambling Helpline has also fielded about 21,000 calls annually for the past three years - a four-fold increase from 2009.

Mr Gerald Goh, clinical director of counselling centre ECMS Consultants, tells Insight that he has seen clients who, after being banned from the casinos, went online instead.

Ironically or not, one of the most vocal critics of online gambling has been Mr Sheldon Adelson, chief executive of casino firm Las Vegas Sands, which owns Marina Bay Sands.

He has decried online gambling as "fool's gold", writing in a Forbes magazine article last year that it causes people to lose their homes and hurts the young and economically vulnerable.

He has also claimed that with the diverted revenue streams, remote casinos will "cannibalise" land outlets which can better impose social monitors.

The odds of addiction

HE MAY have a point.

Multiple studies have painted a grim picture of online gambling as more dangerous than laying bets at a bricks-and-mortar casino.

Nearly 40 per cent of online gamblers tend to overestimate their wins and underestimate their losses, says an academic study published in the Psychological Assessment journal.

While the latest National Council on Problem Gambling statistics from 2011 showed that only 1 per cent of those surveyed participated in online gambling, this group was found to have the poorest self-control. They gambled longer and more frequently, and spent more money than planned.

However, some forms of gambling may be more addictive than others, studies have shown. In a recent Harvard study, it was found that online poker, unlike sports betting, does not promote addiction.

Still, in a poll of 1,000 Internet users conducted by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) last year, almost three in 10 said they had gambled remotely at least once within the year.

Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran said at the time: "This is not surprising, as one can gamble anonymously from almost any location at any time."

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing flagged the issue of online gambling as early as February 2012, when he said: "It's worse because there's no entry levy and that encourages people to chase their losses or double their gains."

Online gambling sites may offer perks such as free credits to lure people to place a wager.

Sports betting operators can also offer updates and time-based products, such as changing odds as an event progresses, says media and technology lawyer Bryan Tan, a partner at Pinsent Masons MPillay. All this could well tempt punters to dip their fingers into different pies.

Benson, the reformed addict, says he would have huge bets on more than 10 football matches at a time. On weekends, he would start betting in the afternoon - when the Asian leagues are in action, before moving with the time zones to the European leagues and then the South American ones.

"These offer better odds than (state-owned lottery company) Singapore Pools," he says, adding that the permutations of bets are endless. "You can bet on the number of corners, the number of red or yellow cards, and even which team kicks off the game."

He could also bet on other sports, from golf to tennis to basketball. And on days when the major leagues do not play, he turned to obscure Middle Eastern leagues to satisfy the itch.

It is thus unsurprising that football betting emerged the leading draw of online gambling in Singapore last year.

British-based consultancy H2 Gambling Capital estimates that 44 per cent of last year's S$406 million gross win value - that is, the amount gambling businesses win from their clients - came from football bets.

The rest came from turf club betting (25 per cent), casino games like roulette and blackjack (21 per cent), poker (6 per cent) and bingo (4 per cent).

Advertising - which the new Bill prohibits - is a common hook.

H2's director of mobile, poker and special projects, Joel Keeble, says most operators advertise either directly on popular websites, or via affiliate businesses that often "have local connections or knowledge".

Stamford Law Corporation director Yap Wai Ming, who sits on the editorial board of the Gaming Law Review And Economics journal, says: "Unregulated online betting sites normally harvest information from visitors and, with no regard for data protection laws, spam them with information about the sites."

Pinsent Masons' Mr Tan adds that online gambling companies have advertised by entering shirt sponsorship deals with football clubs in top leagues.

Until last year, Real Madrid players - including household name Cristiano Ronaldo - sported jerseys bearing the logo of Bwin, which is the world's largest publicly traded online gambling firm.

This season, at least three English Premier League teams - Stoke City, Aston Villa and Burnley - are sponsored by such companies. "This brings tremendous amount of exposure as these games are widely viewed."

A handle on the Bill

THE Bill is intended to plug a loophole in laws which were enacted before the Internet era and so do not expressly address remote gambling, says an MHA spokesman.

"(This is) an extension of our approach to terrestrial gambling," she says. "The provision of gambling is not permitted unless specifically allowed for, by way of an exemption or licence."

Furthermore, remote gambling poses the additional risk in that it could potentially become a conduit of funds for other illegal activities and syndicated crime.

Mr Christian Kalb of Paris-based consultancy CK Consulting says that such activities include money laundering and match-fixing. He adds that dozens of gambling operators are based in offshore tax havens, such as Costa Rica, Kahnawake in Canada and Alderne in the British crown dependency of Guernesey.

Stiff laws under the Bill would protect those under the age of 21, in tandem with the age limit of the two casinos here.

NTU's Associate Professor Lim says: "While (those under 21) are savvy with online technology, they may not be as savvy with the ways of the world. For example, they may not realise that unlike physical casinos where it is illegal to rig games, there are illegitimate online sites that do not play fair."

Statistics on the number of youth involved in remote gambling are not readily available, she says. "Even if the websites practise age verification, it is very easy for the under-aged to check the box and move on."

Stamford Law's Mr Yap offers another dimension to the need for stricter laws to protect the young. He says: "Many cases of loan-shark or gambling syndicate runners brought before the courts have involved teenagers, which goes to show how easily influenced they can be."

The MHA spokesman tells Insight that social games that simulate gambling are another cause of concern, because they "may result in youth becoming desensitised to actual online gambling products in the future".

The broad wording of the law in this respect has not gone unnoticed, and some observers fear that innocuous social games might be implicated.

The Bill defines a "gambling service" as "a service for the conduct of a game of chance where the game is played for money or money's worth, and a customer of the service gives or agrees to give money or money's worth to play or enter the game".

"Money's worth" in turn includes virtual credits, coins, or tokens purchased within a "game of chance", which includes any game that involves an element of chance and/or skill.

Mr Yap notes that many social games - including the likes of Farmville and Candy Crush - are largely based on "random generators" and thus can be construed to fall under the purview of a "game of chance".

"If all social games that have some element of chance are regarded as gambling and thus outlawed, the digital development industry may suffer a serious setback," he says, calling for more clarity to be introduced to the Bill before it is passed.

Mr Luc Delany, chief executive of the Britain-based International Social Games Association, agrees. He tells Insight that this might have an unintended consequence on an industry that "has nothing to do with real money gambling".

"(This) could outlaw the 'freemium'-pricing model, which relies on virtual goods and currency that have no real money value in the real world," he says.

Yet others feel that the laws might end up driving activity underground.

GBGC chief executive Warwick Bartlett tells Insight that the exemptions granted under the Bill will likely protect the existing monopoly gambling services.

"The danger is that players will resort to illegal gambling operators where the payout ratio is higher," he says.

MP Phua, likewise, feels that the allowance for exemptions is the Bill's largest flaw. She says: "It sends the signal that online gambling, as long as it is through an approved operator, is acceptable. Two wrongs don't make a right."


 

What the Bill proposes to do to crack down on remote gambling

GAMBLING via the Internet and telephone will soon be illegal, if the Remote Gambling Bill tabled in Parliament on Monday is passed.

The Bill seeks to equip the authorities with the power to fight the problem of unregulated online gambling, such as by turning off access to unauthorised remote gambling websites with the aid of Internet service providers, and by getting the Monetary Authority of Singapore to compel banks to block payments to and from these sites. Any form of advertising, be it online or offline, or on hoardings, that promotes such activity will be outlawed. Gamblers themselves could be hit with a $5,000 fine and six-month jail term. Agents who help gambling websites would be whacked even harder.

A key provision is protecting those under 21 from getting hooked. Anyone found to have lured an underaged person into remote gambling would face a mandatory fine of between $20,000 and $300,000, and jail of up to six years.

The Bill does provide for exemptions if applicants meet strict criteria - be based in Singapore, non-profit, contribute to a social cause, and have a good compliance track record.

Major state-run operators Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club, which both run remote gambling services, tell Insight they will seek exemption once the Bill becomes law.

Singapore Pools has had phone betting since 2005, and will seek ratification to continue the service, a spokesman says. She adds that it is "premature" to comment on the possibility of it launching other modes of remote gambling. A spokesman for the Turf Club, which already takes bets via a mobile application and phone, says it will apply for exemption should it meet the conditions.

waltsim@sph.com.sg

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Fake lenses: Conviction overturned

Straits Times
06 Sep 2014
SELINA LUM

Though he facilitated the committing of the offences, there was no evidence he knew the lenses, which were supplied by another person, were counterfeit

THE High Court yesterday overturned the conviction of an optometrist who was fined $38,000 for helping to supply bogus contact lenses to two others.

In acquitting Mr Koh Peng Kiat, 32, Justice Choo Han Teck said that though he facilitated the committing of the offences, there was no evidence he knew the lenses, which were supplied by another person, were counterfeit.

He also disagreed with the view of the district judge, who said the optometrist should have checked the source of the lenses, which were well below market price. Justice Choo said there was "no reason" for Mr Koh to suspect the lenses were counterfeit and check with manufacturer Ciba Vision. In the absence of a market practice, he added, optometrists cannot be expected to check all purchases with the registered trademark owners.

There is no further avenue of appeal in the case, but the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) can raise the matter to the apex court to make a ruling if it believes a question of law of public interest has arisen.

Contacted for comment, a spokesman for the AGC said: "The prosecution is studying the judgment carefully and considering whether there is a need to file a criminal reference to the Court of Appeal."

Mr Koh faced two charges under the Trade Marks Act for helping Mr Neo Teck Soon and Mr Wong Chow Fatt come into possession of bogus lenses. He also faced 12 charges under the Health Products Act for arranging to supply them with fake lenses.

Mr Koh told the two men that he had a contact called "Ah Seng" who could supply the Freshlook ColorBlends lenses at a price below the market price of $22 a box.

Mr Neo eventually bought 100 boxes at $10 each while Mr Wong bought 30 boxes at $8 each.

Mr Neo was fined $30,000 and Mr Wong $12,000 in 2012 for selling the bogus lenses to optical shops. The shops that bought the fakes were given a stern warning.

The offences, Singapore's first case of bogus contact lenses, emerged when the shop that bought the fakes from Mr Neo returned most of them to Ciba Vision for lenses of different colours or degrees. Tests later confirmed they were fakes.

selinal@sph.com.sg

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Businessman wanted out, loses $1.7 million deposit

Straits Times
29 Aug 2014
K.C. Vijayan

His firm should have done more to secure approval of deal: Judge

A BUSINESSMAN who wanted out of a $16.8 million deal to buy a car showroom was ordered to forfeit his $1.68 million deposit instead.

Mr Cheong Sim Lam had argued that the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Housing Board (HDB) did not give the approval needed for the change in ownership.

But the High Court decided that he should have done more to convince the government bodies into saying "yes".

The case involved a swanky showroom unit in Leng Kee Road, which was sold by Pacific Motor Credit to Mr Cheong's company, The One Suites, in 2012.

But before HDB's consent to the transfer could take place, NEA's approval was needed to address any pollution control issues in relation to unit use.

HDB also sought a business plan from One Suites to discuss the proposed use of the site.

When the company sought NEA's approval to use the premises as a car showroom and motor workshop in August 2012, it was rejected.

NEA pointed out that the long-term land use for the area was residential.

But Pacific had appealed, and persuaded NEA to change its mind, noted Judicial Commissioner Edmund Leow.

One Suites, represented by lawyer Michael Palmer, argued this happened only after the date set to complete the sale.

And this allowed the company to rescind the contract and seek a refund of the $1.68 million deposit paid.

But the judge made clear One Suites had an implied duty to undertake all reasonable steps to help complete the deal.

If the authorities had already considered all possible arguments, and clearly said "no", then it would have to be reasonable not to attempt an appeal.

But this was not the case here, said the judge, in a decision earlier this month.

Instead, One Suites had lost interest in buying the property and was looking for a chance to rescind the contract.

The $1.68 million paid by One Suites was meant as a security deposit to ensure it abided by the contract.

As Mr Cheong's company had breached the contract, Pacific, which was defended by lawyer Albert Balasubramaniam, was entitled to keep the deposit, ruled the judge.

But he declined Pacific's counter-application to order One Suites to go through with the sale, ruling it was inappropriate for the court to use its discretion in the circumstances of the case.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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Tech-savvy folks can get around the tough measures, say experts

Straits Times
13 Sep 2014
Irene Tham

ONE aim of the Remote Gambling Bill is that by blocking gambling websites, cutting payment gateways and banning pop-up adverts, no one will stumble on them by chance.

But will online options really dry up?

Some critics tell Insight the measures are not foolproof, given today's tech-savvy consumers who know how to circumvent online restrictions.

For instance, Internet service providers (ISPs) are required to block websites only when directed by the Media Development Authority.

The blocking mechanism is not prescribed. But if ISPs are required to block only the original Web address - like how they are made to block pornography websites - then it is easy to circumvent prohibited sites.

Virtual private network (VPN) services - sold initially to corporations to secure their Internet links - can mask any Web traffic. VPN services are easily available and sold to individuals for as little as $10 a month. So when punters use VPN services, ISPs will not be able to detect access to a gambling website, much less block the access. And most gambling websites have "proxy" Web addresses - alternative addresses that can be entered into Web browsers to take users to the blocked sites.

So, killing the payment gateway seems the only measure that goes far enough to stop most problem gamblers.

Sure, lawmakers here could have made things tougher, such as by criminalising all parties, including banks, that assist in making online gambling payments - as in the US.

Here, financial institutions are required to block payment to certain websites only if directed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

"This relieves the banks from having to do their own detective work as to which account is in aid of online gambling payments," says Mr Yap Wai Ming, director of Stamford Law Corporation.

Once payment using Singapore-issued banking cards no longer works at prohibited sites, determined punters might use payment intermediaries and e-wallet service providers like US-based PayPal and UK-based Neteller.

But PayPal, which operates here, says it will comply with local laws. As for Neteller, it is unclear, as it does not have an office here. Even so, it is not easy to transfer money cheaply to these e-wallets.

Wire transfers cost at least $20 per transaction. The other option - setting up an overseas credit card or savings account, or using someone else's - is inconvenient and can be costly.

Virtual currencies such as Bitcoin are accepted by some gambling websites and e-wallets. But the technological barrier is too high for the average Joe.

An avid gambler of 15 years who declined to be named tells Insight these payment options are "self-defeating" due to the high cost and inconvenience.

This is why he believes that the primitive method of using illegal bookies - actual people who take bets at agreed-upon odds - will make a comeback.

Insight understands that bookies set up accounts at gambling sites for customers and process payments on their behalf. Most do not operate here and accept only cash. But punters have to find ways to access the blocked sites themselves. "The challenge is the enforcement of the law," the gambler says.

Another potential outcome is that once the Bill is passed, it may cause government-sanctioned Singapore Pools to raise its game.

Punters point to its low winnings and uncompetitive odds. This is why they turn to alternative online sources, they maintain.

itham@sph.com.sg

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Over half of top 20 young lawyers from local giants

Straits Times
05 Sep 2014
K.C. Vijayan

Rajah & Tann, Stamford Law have 11 lawyers on list by S'pore Business Review

LOCAL giants Rajah & Tann Asia and Stamford Law dominated a list by The Singapore Business Review (SBR) of the most influential young lawyers here.

They provided 11 of those included in the debut list of 20 most influential lawyers aged 40 or under. A significant number also came from foreign firms based here.

Youngest to make the cut is Stamford Law's Ms Elizabeth Kong, 33, who focuses on corporate finance, mergers and securities. Ms Kong, who graduated with a double first-class honours from Cambridge University and had won a slew of academic prizes, was involved in several headline-grabbing transactions, including the US$11.2 billion (S$14 billion) takeover of Fraser & Neave by Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi last year.

Also making the top 20 is 37-year-old June Ho, a partner in Norwegian firm Wikborg Rein. Her major deals included the US$550 million share swap involving Paka Capital, Khazanah - the Malaysian government's investment arm - and department store Parkson.

"Her charming and unfazed ways get the points across most of the time, but don't be fooled by her petite appearance. She can be tenacious and knows exactly where the soft spots are in every transaction," SBR wrote in its citation for Ms Ho.

Malaysian-born Mark Cheng, who migrated here when he was one, also made the list for the role he played in expanding the work done by Singapore's largest law firm, Rajah & Tann, into Thailand.

The Thai office he set up has grown from six lawyers to over 30 in the space of two years. Seven lawyers on SBR's list are from Rajah & Tann.

According to SBR, its list recognises executives with "lofty positions and with client lists that would be the envy of any of their peers".

"Some of them advised on one of the country's major transactions, and/or advised on one of the country's most controversial cases," it added.

SBR is a bimonthly covering major industries in Singapore and aimed at decision-makers in the top 1,700 companies.

The list was derived from nominees evaluated by a panel of legal industry players and experts based on thought leadership, influence and career development.

Litigation lawyer Choo Zheng Xi, 29, hopes more of his colleagues with litigation experience in criminal and family law will make the list in the coming years.

He said: "They will surface, given the current moves to get more lawyers into these areas."

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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Books throw insight into SIAC rules

Business Times
29 Aug 2014
Michelle Quah

Timely boost to Spore as a centre for global arbitration

SINGAPORE'S concerted efforts to develop the country as a leading seat of international arbitration have paid off in many ways - most recently, through the publication of two books on the practice of international arbitration here.

The first is the Oxford University Press's (OUP) A Guide to the SIAC Arbitration Rules - a comprehensive commentary on the Singapore International Arbitration Centre's (SIAC) arbitration rules.

Among other things, it covers the history of the SIAC, and the life of an SIAC arbitration from its commencement through to the final award; it references Singaporean case-law and legislation, and it compares the centre's rules with those of other major arbitral institutions to provide an all-round view of SIAC arbitration.

A second book, titled Arbitration in Singapore: A Practical Guide - whose editor-in-chief is Singapore's Chief Justice, Sundaresh Menon - is due to be launched on Friday. This book is said to be an in-depth practitioner's guide to international or domestic arbitration in Singapore, and brings together the law and practice of arbitration in Singapore under and in connection with regulatory frameworks most commonly used.

The publication of two books on the subject is a clear indication that the SIAC, established in 1991, has arrived.

Asked to comment on this development, Singapore's Law Minister, K Shanmugam - who is instrumental in the efforts to raise Singapore's standing as a seat of international arbitration - said: "Singapore has become the leading Asian centre for arbitration, and one of the leading centres in the world. The SIAC, Singapore's flagship arbitral institution, handled a record 259 new cases worth S$6.06 billion in 2013, compared to 160 cases worth S$1.54 billion in 2009.

"The two books will be very helpful in explaining the law and practice of arbitration in Singapore and the SIAC's arbitration rules, including its unique features such as interim awards or orders that are issued by emergency arbitrators," Mr Shanmugam added.

Lucy Reed, Singapore partner and global head of international law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and one of the authors of the OUP guide, told The Business Times: "SIAC is now one of the best and busiest arbitration institutions in the world - and the absence of a comprehensive users' guide was striking."

Ms Reed said the centre is well-placed to play a central role in South-east Asia's growth - the surge of interest from outside investors makes the presence of a world-class arbitration centre in the region an important prerequisite to doing business.

"Our hope is that the book is another step forward for Singapore's arbitration community and that it will raise awareness of SIAC throughout Asia and beyond," she said.

In his foreword to the OUP guide, Michael Pryles, SIAC's president, said: "It should not be thought that the book is a brief or terse annotation of the (SIAC) rules. It is much more than that. I am immediately struck by its comprehensive nature. Indeed some of the chapters are not devoted to the rules themselves but explore their background and related matters."

michquah@sph.com.sg

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More free community legal clinics to open

Straits Times
13 Sep 2014
Aw Cheng Wei

At least three more to come, with one for every district

MORE lawyers will soon be on hand to give free legal advice at new community legal clinics around the island.

At least three more of these clinics will join the current two pilot facilities in Woodlands and Eunos, under an agreement signed yesterday by The Law Society as well as the Office of the Mayors and People's Association.

No timeframe has been confirmed yet, but it will happen "as soon as possible," Dr Teo Ho Pin, chairman of the mayors' committee, told reporters.

"We will slowly build up our network of legal clinics within the districts to make it more convenient for residents," he said.

Currently, the two clinics - set up in 2007 - handle about 3,000 enquiries yearly, said Law Society president Lok Vi Ming, adding that the number can be increased by at least 30 per cent with the new facilities.

"This service has proven to be extremely popular and demand has grown over the years," he said.

Each of Singapore's five districts will have at least one clinic, so as to make it easier for low-income residents to seek legal advice, said Dr Teo.

And more clinics will be added, depending on demand, said Foreign and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, who was also at the event.

Currently, more than 60 per cent of those who need legal advice are not from the North West and South East districts, where the two clinics are located.

In the last seven years, about 1,500 lawyers have committed more than 5,000 man hours on almost 15,000 cases, mainly relating to matrimonial, loan and employment issues.

Mr Shanmugam said that there will also be a bigger collaboration between community development councils and The Law Society, so that people can get more well rounded care.

The clinics are part of the Community Legal Pro Bono Services Network - so people who approach the lawyers may not only be offered legal advice, but also be pointed to other agencies for further help.

For example, a resident who needs legal help on a broken marriage may also be referred to the family service centre for counselling, and the social service office for financial help.

Said Mr Shanmugam: "Eventually, we really want to make it seamless... integrate all the types of services and get them working together."

Mr Patrick Tan, the founder and chief executive of Fortis Law Corp, has been volunteering under the programme for seven years, and called it a fantastic experience.

The 41-year-old lawyer, whose 10 employees are all active in the clinics, said: "We find that we are able to help a lot of people.

"Even though each session does not last long, we are able to give basic advice and tell them where they can seek help."

The service is available to Singaporeans and permanent residents. They must register before they can attend the 20- to 30-minute consultation.

To do so, they can call 6536-0650 or send an e-mail to probonoservices@lawsoc.org.sg

awcw@sph.com.sg

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Criminal and family law 'a very good starting point'

Straits Times
05 Sep 2014
Lim Yi Han

CRIMINAL and family law are a very good starting point for fresh lawyers, said industry veterans.

They were responding to Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon's speech last month, when he urged new lawyers called to the Bar to hone their skills in community law first, instead of heading straight for corporate law.

Mr Subhas Anandan, president of the Association of Criminal Lawyers of Singapore, believes that criminal law trains younger lawyers to think on the spot as the defence counsel has limited access to materials which may be useful in the trial.

Said the 67-year-old lawyer: "When criminal lawyers want to switch to civil law, they can do it quite easily. But if civil lawyers want to go into crime, they will find it difficult."

There is also the chance to conduct their own cases in court and cross-examine witnesses earlier in their careers.

Said Mr Choo Zheng Xi, who has been practising both criminal and commercial law since 2011: "You get trial experience much earlier as a criminal lawyer. My advice is to consider both commercial and criminal litigation to begin with."

But lawyers The Straits Times spoke to said they did not expect many to heed CJ Menon's advice, given the lure of big bucks in corporate law, and the challenges faced by community lawyers.

Lawyer Chia Boon Teck pointed out that corporate clients "have deeper pockets", so lawyers can bill them between $400 and $800 for an hour of work.

But family and criminal lawyers have to sometimes offer "package" prices which are affordable to their clients, who may be unemployed.

Added corporate lawyer Stefanie Yuen Thio: "I've seen young lawyers choose family law because of their ideals, only to give up because of the sheer volume of cases they had to take on to pay the bills."

Criminal lawyer Sunil Sudheesan also said that while there is plenty of demand for family and criminal legal services, there is "not enough paid work to sustain the criminal Bar".

"In that sense, the Government stepping in to fund criminal legal aid is a huge paradigm shift which will hopefully attract some to try out criminal defence work."

Law Minister K. Shanmugam announced late last year that the Government will give "direct assistance and support" to defendants through the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme.

Mr Subhas said every criminal needed legal advice. "Even though there are people who will sometimes doubt it, the presumption of innocence is still important; it is the cornerstone of our judicial system."

limyihan@sph.com.sg


Background Story

NO BIG BUCKS

I've seen young lawyers choose family law because of their ideals, only to give up because of the sheer volume of cases they had to take on to pay the bills.

- Corporate lawyer Stefanie Yuen Thio

EXPERIENCE COUNTS

You get trial experience much earlier as a criminal lawyer. My advice is to consider both commercial and criminal litigation to begin with.

- Mr Choo Zheng Xi, who has been practising both criminal and commercial law since 2011

GOOD TRAINING

When criminal lawyers want to switch to civil law, they can do it quite easily. But if civil lawyers want to go into crime, they will find it difficult.

- Mr Subhas Anandan, president of the Association of Criminal Lawyers of Singapore

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Serial cheat's appeal turned down

Straits Times
29 Aug 2014
Ian Poh

A SERIAL cheat who fell back into his old ways four months out of a 10-year preventive detention stint has had his appeal against his latest sentence rejected.

Jason Kuppusamy Pannisilvam, 58, was given eight more years of the same punishment - which is usually imposed on hardened criminals considered a threat to society - after pleading guilty to his latest offences in May.

In January and February, he procured more than $3,000 by offering smartphones and home entertainment products to victims, and then making off with their money without giving them the goods.

He also stole $280 from a taxi driver.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon dismissed his appeal yesterday, saying Kuppusamy's criminal record - which stretches back to 1979 - meant the lower court had been "lenient" in imposing a shorter term the second time around.

"I cannot accede to your plea for a second chance given the clear (pattern) that emerges," the judge said.

He also considered a raft of past property-related and cheating offences, which have seen Kuppusamy given a range of punishments, including lengthy jail and corrective training stints.

The court heard that he also cheated victims of more than $18,000 in 2003.

When pleading guilty in May, Kuppusamy expressed remorse and promised not to reoffend. He said he committed the offences to relieve "financial problems", and to look after his family.

But District Judge Carrie Chan later said there was evidence that he fell into the category of "hardcore recidivist criminals" and "represented a continuing danger to the public".

"His main risk factor was his long history of offences and inability to manage his financial problems," Judge Chan said. "(His) situation did not support or admit the possibility for reform."

Preventive detention can involve between seven and 20 years in prison. Those who cheat victims out of their property can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

pohian@sph.com.sg

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IP protection: S'pore top in Asia, second globally

Straits Times
13 Sep 2014
Mok Fei Fei

SINGAPORE is the top nation in Asia when it comes to protecting intellectual property (IP) and the second best globally, according to a new league table.

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos) said in a statement yesterday that this is the fourth year in a row that the country has retained high positions for IP protection.

Initiatives to improve IP protection have not gone unnoticed, enabling Singapore to climb up the annual rankings, which are compiled by the World Economic Forum.

Singapore was ninth in 2006 globally before rising to third in 2010 and second in 2011, a place it has held since. The top-ranked nation this year is Finland.

Ipos attributed the improvement in rankings to its moves to develop the country as an IP hub of Asia.

An IP Financing Scheme that allows firms to estimate the value of their patents and to monetise such assets is one such initiative. An IP ValueLab has also been set up to help companies manage their IP.

Ipos added that the strong IP regime here has helped to attract commerce and foreign investments, including over 600 franchising systems with more than 40,000 franchisees in 2012.

Franchise agreements typically rely on a strong IP regime as they involve trademarks and patented products or services. Such companies are estimated to account for 18 per cent of the total domestic retail sales volume.

"Singapore's business-friendly IP regime has helped bolster the confidence of leading global companies such as Procter & Gamble, Continental and Mead Johnson, all of whom have selected Singapore as their location of choice for investments in business and research and development, citing the country's strong protection of IP rights as a factor in their decisions," Ipos said.

feimok@sph.com.sg

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Get lawyers to go into family, criminal law: Forum

Straits Times
05 Sep 2014

THE letter ("Panel did not highlight shortage of lawyers: Ministry" by Ms Praveen Randhawa, Press Secretary to Minister, Ministry of Law; Aug 28) may have misunderstood Miss Annia Hsu's letter ("Not easy to get law grads to enter other fields"; Aug 24).

Given the context, one would infer that Miss Hsu was advocating a cap on the number of Singaporeans with foreign law degrees entering the local market.

The ministry may have underestimated the willingness and ability of Singapore parents to send their children overseas to pursue law degrees.

I have no issues with the ministry choosing to recognise law degrees from a large number of foreign institutions, as these produce lawyers with a more global outlook. However, this contributes to an oversupply of lawyers.

The bigger problem is the mismatch between supply and demand. The 4th Committee on the Supply of Lawyers had highlighted a shortage of family and criminal practitioners, and the ministry seems to hope a third law school will ease this shortage.

It does not make sense to increase supply in an already oversaturated market.

Instead, the ministry could perhaps engage law students (studying here and overseas) on the merits of joining such practice areas, which they may have shunned because of a lack of information.

Lawyers without training contracts would certainly consider careers in these areas, which are well worth pursuing.

George Goh Chong Teck

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$2m to Xtron for 'legitimate services'

Straits Times
29 Aug 2014
Feng Zengkun

Pastor denies church money was slated to help music firm pay off loans

CITY Harvest founder Kong Hee insisted that there was nothing fishy about plans to pay Xtron $2 million of the church's money to fund, among other things, a promotion blitz for the American album of his wife, Ms Ho Sun Yeow.

But the prosecution suggested yesterday that this was just one of several schemes hatched by Kong and his deputies in a bid to use church funds to help the production firm pay its debts.

"We have, in fact, seen how... retainers would be adjusted, rental increased or expenses re-allocated to ensure that Xtron's cash flow was solved," Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong put it to Kong during cross-examination.

The senior pastor and five others face various charges for their part in allegedly misusing some $50 million of church funds to boost Ms Ho's music career and to cover up the misdeed.

In 2007, the church agreed to a deal to buy $13 million of Xtron bonds to help finance her debut American album. Xtron had two years to repay the money, along with interest.

But in a 2009 e-mail, church finance manager Sharon Tan told Kong that the church would need to pay Xtron $401,000 more in retainer fees. This was to make up for a reduction in the rent City Harvest paid Xtron for a property.

"What Sharon is really describing is (the church) taking with the right hand but giving back with the left hand to Xtron, and that doesn't make commercial sense from CHC's point of view," said Mr Ong.

In an e-mail a year earlier, former Xtron accountant Serina Wee had also referred to the $2 million payment as one way to help Xtron if it could not recoup enough from Ms Ho's album sales.

Kong said yesterday the $2 million was part of "tentative provisions" to finance a slew of events to show the church's support for the album. But he said the payment would have been legitimate as the church would have got extra services from Xtron.

"During the run-up of the album launch all the way to the actual launch (in 2009), there would have been many, many events that the church would get into. It was much like what had happened in Asia for (Ms Ho's) Asian album launches," he said. The events included outreach concerts in the US and Asia, and "a lot of gospel events".

The money would have paid for the "real, legitimate and commercially viable" services needed to organise the events, said the 50-year-old.

He also again rejected the prosecution's allegation that he and his deputies were the ones who were secretly in control of Xtron, enabling them to rubber-stamp sham deals and illegally funnel church funds into Ms Ho's career.

Mr Ong yesterday pointed out that Kong, Tan, Wee and deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng were the ones involved in e-mail discussions about how Xtron could meet its loan obligations, even though none of them belonged on its management.

But Kong said he and the others were "partners working with Xtron's management" on the Crossover Project, a church project which used Ms Ho's secular music to evangelise. "Ultimately, the Xtron directors have to look at all the plans, and they have to authorise it on their end."

zengkun@sph.com.sg

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Widow 'knew what she was doing' when she made will

Straits Times
12 Sep 2014
Carolyn Khew

WHEN 87-year-old Chung Khin Chun decided to leave all her assets to him, she "knew exactly what she was doing", insisted Mr Yang Yin.

The Chinese former tour guide said that in 2010, when her lawyer drew up a new will for the wealthy widow, she was first made to undergo a medical examination.

The doctor found that Madam Chung, whose assets were worth around $40 million, was "fully aware of what she was stating in the will".

The widow, who this year was diagnosed with dementia, was also examined by a doctor accredited by the Office of the Public Guardian in 2012 before appointing him her guardian, said Mr Yang.

The doctor certified that Madam Chung had the "requisite mental capacity" at the time, and fully understood the implications, Mr Yang said.

The Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) granted to him that year gave him full control over her assets, which include a $30 million bungalow in Gerald Crescent.

"Madam Chung knew her actions would attract unhappiness from her relatives and she executed the LPA and the will to protect me and my family and to give us the assurance we would be provided for," said Mr Yang, who denied splurging on expensive hotels while on overseas trips.

As for allegations that Madam Chung "lives frugally nowadays", he said the widow is "getting on in years and does not lead such a lavish lifestyle any more".

"This does not mean, in any way, that Madam Chung is being treated badly. It is just a change in circumstances," he added.

CAROLYN KHEW

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Niece of rich widow seeks to freeze her assets

Straits Times
05 Sep 2014
Carolyn Khew & Toh Yong Chuan

Tour guide involved in legal tussle is a grassroots man

THE niece of a rich 87-year-old widow has moved to freeze her aunt's assets.

Last month, Madam Hedy Mok applied to the courts for a Mareva injunction pending an application to revoke the Lasting Power of Attorney which has given Mr Yang Yin, a tour guide from China, control over Madam Chung Khin Chun's wealth and property.

Madam Mok, 60, claims that Mr Yang had taken advantage of her aunt's vulnerability to put himself in charge of her affairs. Madam Chung, who owns a $30 million bungalow in Gerald Crescent, was diagnosed with dementia this year.

Attempts to contact Mr Yang, 40, and get his side of the saga, remained unsuccessful. His mobile phone was switched off and an e-mail message to his lawyer in Singapore went unanswered.

Sources have confirmed that he is a grassroots member in Ang Mo Kio GRC's Jalan Kayu Neighbourhood Committee.

"He is polite and enthusiastic, but he did not hold any post," said one source. "He is mostly involved in organising activities."

Mr Yang's business card, which was obtained from Madam Mok, had him in several posts.

He was listed as a director at the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) and the executive director of the Singapore Chinese Immigrants Association.

The SCCCI told The Straits Times that there was no staff or council member by that name.

A check with the Registry of Societies also found no record of the Singapore Chinese Immigrants Association.

Mr Yang, a Singapore permanent resident, was also listed as the director of Young Music and Dance Studio.

When The Straits Times visited his Cecil Street office yesterday, there was an empty office about the size of a five-room flat.

Affidavits alleged that in 2009 Mr Yang moved in with Madam Chung, a retired physiotherapist, a year after they met in China.

"I first noticed that my aunt was showing mild symptoms of mental deterioration some time in 2007," Madam Mok said in her submissions to the court. "I dismissed this as signs of ageing."

But this year, her condition got worse, Madam Mok went on.

"For instance, she did not realise that (Mr Yang) had been staying with her since 2009 and thought that he had only stayed with her occasionally."

A doctor diagnosed her with dementia. That was when Madam Mok decided to apply under the Mental Capacity Act to oversee her aunt's affairs.

"To my horror, I was informed by (the authorities) that a Lasting Power of Attorney had been registered on July 6, 2012, appointing (Mr Yang)..." Madam Mok, who owns a travel agency, said.

Madam Chung has been staying with her niece since a few weeks ago.

On Tuesday, a seven-hour stand-off took place between Madam Mok and Mr Yang's wife, who had moved into the house a year ago.

The stand-off, which saw police called in, ended after the 34-year-old Chinese woman agreed to leave the bungalow on the advice of her lawyer.

She told The Straits Times before leaving that Madam Chung had invited her husband to live with her.

"My husband has looked after the old grandmother for five years," said Mrs Yang.

kcarolyn@sph.com.sg

tohyc@sph.com.sg


Mini 'Haw Par Villa' in disrepair

WHAT is left of a huge garden that once belonged to Madam Chung Khin Chun is still a sight to behold.

But it seems the colourful miniature buildings and figurines - resembling those at Haw Par Villa - which dot the 32,000 sq ft compound have fallen into disrepair.

About the size of 30 five-room Housing Board flats, the land in Seletar Hills Estate houses a single-storey bungalow and an outhouse used as an art gallery.

The compound, which has 864 years left on its 999-year lease, used to be more than twice its current size. Its backyard garden, which used to have durian and rambutan trees, a lily pond, rock paths and figurines of animals, was sold for $7.6 million in 2004 to a developer which built 25 terrace houses.

Madam Chung's former driver, Mr Jarudin Mustafa, who also doubled as her gardener, tended to the garden for 30 years, until he stopped work in 2009. The original garden was so large that he even roped in his wife, Madam Saripah Kamsah, to help. "It was very big, but beautiful," the 80-year-old told The Straits Times on Wednesday.

TOH YONG CHUAN

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$2m cheating case: Ex-bank exec's jail term cut to 4 1/2 years

Straits Times
28 Aug 2014
Ian Poh

A FORMER bank relationship manager who cheated the daughter of late banker and philanthropist Khoo Teck Puat of $2 million had his six-year prison term cut to 4 1/2 years on appeal yesterday.

Bernard Lim Seng Soon had paid back the full amount to Madam Khoo Bee See, 79, whose father was once Singapore's wealthiest man.

The 39-year-old Lim had also pleaded guilty at an early stage of proceedings.

His lawyer, Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah, argued, among other things, that the district court had not given enough weight to both these mitigating factors when sentencing him in March. The lawyer pushed for a jail term of not more than four years.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Jeremy Yeo, however, said the restitution did not reduce the extent of Lim's guilt.

The offences tainted Singapore's standing as a financial hub, added the DPP.

Justice Chao Hick Tin allowed the appeal, but kept the jail time to more than four years.

In September 2010, Lim told one Rosie Cheong about a new investment product, which never existed.

Ms Cheong, unaware it was fake, passed the information to Madam Khoo, who later agreed to invest.

The money was paid into an account belonging to Lim's wife Jaime Ho Ai Lin, who was a private banking officer with RBS Coutts & Co.

Lim, who was working for Deutsche Bank then, withdrew various amounts to buy shares and pay off gambling debts and other loans.

In passing sentence, District Judge Salina Ishak had said that Lim had taken advantage of a procedural loophole at RBS, and had abused his position of trust and his three- year friendship with his client.

pohian@sph.com.sg

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Builder gets record fine for worker's death

Straits Times
12 Sep 2014
Janice Heng

FOLLOWING a worker's death two years ago, construction firm CGW Construction was fined $150,000 yesterday for not taking reasonable measures to ensure its workers' safety and health.

The fine is the highest imposed on an employer for an offence under Section 12 of the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

It was also the firm's second conviction under the Act. In the first in 2011, it was fined $50,000 after a worker was injured.

The construction sector has been the leading source of workplace deaths, accounting for 17 of 30 such deaths in the first half of this year.

In the fatal accident on Oct 25, 2012, at a construction site in Beach Road, CGW employee Zhou Shi Hong fell 6.4m from the open side of a second-floor staircase landing.

He had been searching for concrete nails in a pail before standing up, suddenly losing his balance and falling backwards over the open side.

CGW was then a sub-contractor for worksite occupier Hyundai Construction and Engineering.

The Ministry of Manpower's investigations found that CGW had failed to put guard rails on the open side of the stairwell, even though their workplace safety documents said that guard rails would be installed.

The firm also failed to provide lifelines to which workers could anchor their safety harnesses, even though the agreement between Hyundai and CGW stated that it was CGW's responsibility to do so.

Furthermore, the firm had started work on the stairwell before their permit-to-work application had been approved by Hyundai. This process, for dangerous work taking place at a height of more than 3m, requires several formalised stages of safety checks before work can start.

CGW pleaded guilty before District Judge Ronald Gwee in the State Courts and was fined $150,000.

janiceh@sph.com.sg

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Custody battle: Mum sneaked into S'pore by boat to get son

Straits Times
05 Sep 2014
Elena Chong

A CUSTODY battle over a two-year-old child has seen it all - a bitter court case in London, and now the mother sneaking into Singapore by boat in an attempt to spirit her son away.

Caught in the drama are the child's grandparents.

Last month, they were involved in a scuffle with their daughter-in-law, who was trying to snatch the child from them.

The boy's father is a Singaporean, and his mother a foreigner. They have filed for divorce, and a British court had ordered earlier this year that the child be placed under the mother's care.

When the grandparents in Singapore did not let go of the child, their own son in London had to spend some months in jail for being in contempt of the court - until another judge freed him in July.

Meanwhile, the boy's 30-year-old mother, who cannot be named because of a gag order, decided to take matters into her own hands.

She got in touch with Adam Christopher Whittington, 38, managing director of Child Abduction Recovery International, a non-governmental organisation, to snatch her son back, a district court heard yesterday.

They hired a catamaran from Langkawi, Malaysia, to sneak her into Singapore.

She had told Whittington she could not enter Singapore through the proper channels because her husband had filed police reports against her, and she was concerned she would be arrested.

The boat set off from Langkawi last month, steered by its Australian skipper Todd Allan Wilson, 39, and Whittington, who holds British and Australian passports.

It reached Raffles Marina at Tuas West Drive around 6am on Aug 19.

The marina is not an authorised landing place between 5pm and 9am, Deputy Public Prosecutor Ailene Chou told the court.

Having avoided the immigration authorities, the boy's mother and Whittington took a taxi to the condominium where the child lived with his grandparents.

Two hours later, the boy's 66-year-old grandfather emerged from his apartment, carrying the child. The 68-year-old grandmother was holding his shoes.

Whittington tried to serve the court order on the man while the boy's mother tried to prise the boy away from his grasp. She succeeded when Whittington arm-locked the grandfather. He also hurt the boy's grandmother, who was trying to stop him.

Whittington and the mother were arrested at a hotel, while Wilson was arrested at Tuas West Drive the following day.

Yesterday, the boy's mother and Wilson pleaded guilty to one immigration offence each, while Whittington also admitted to using criminal force on the boy's grandfather and hurting his grandmother.

In mitigation, the woman said she has a divorce proceeding, and missed her son, whom she had not seen for a year. She was depressed and had sleepless nights.

Pleading for a chance, she said she realised she had made a "big mistake", and regretted the offence.

"I believe my son needs me more than anything. I will do it in a proper way with an English lawyer, and wish to proceed with the custody matter in Singapore," she said.

District Judge Liew Thiam Leng adjourned the case to Monday.

elena@sph.com.sg

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Tuition agency, boss fined for breaching 'Do Not Call' rules

Straits Times
28 Aug 2014
Ian Poh

A TUITION agency and its director have become the first offenders to be penalised under the "Do Not Call" rules which kicked in on Jan 2.

Star Zest Home Tuition and its sole director Law Han Wei, 35, sent messages advertising the services of its tutors to Singapore phone numbers on its database - even though the numbers were listed on the Do Not Call Registry.

Some of the numbers belonged to former students and members of the public who previously contacted Star Zest.

The rules ban firms from marketing to any number listed on the registry without first getting consent. More than 600,000 numbers are on the registry.

Yesterday, Law and the agency were each fined $39,000 - or $3,000 per charge - after pleading guilty to 13 of 37 offences committed between Jan 3 and 14, with the rest taken into consideration.

The court heard that Star Zest operated through its website and employed 12 people then, seven of whom were based in the Philippines.

Law would draft the telemarketing messages and compile a list of telephone numbers comprising former students of the agency, those who had called with queries and others on databases that had been bought from unidentified persons. He would authorise a staff member to send out the messages.

Between Jan 2 and April 2, the Personal Data Protection Commission received 364 valid complaints about the agency from people on the registry.

Pleading for leniency, Law said yesterday that he apologises to the commission and those who have complained. He said the messages were not sent as acts of mischief but, rather, to add value for students, and that Star Zest has since complied with the rules.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Yan Jiakang said the actions showed "blatant disregard" for users' expectations and undermined the registry's effectiveness.

She added: "This is a serious violation which infringes on the private space of individuals."

Anyone convicted under the Personal Data Protection Act could be fined up to $10,000 per charge.

pohian@sph.com.sg

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Time to recognise external law degrees: Forum

Straits Times
12 Sep 2014

THE discussion on overseas law degrees and the difficulty in getting lawyers to take up criminal and family law has missed two points.

First, allowing external law degree holders to practise should increase the number of community lawyers here.

In the past, many police officers read law in part-time external degree programmes and ended up practising community law - a natural fit. Former policeman A.P. Thirumurthy is one such example ("Ex-cop now a family lawyer"; May 30, 2013).

That said, if external law degrees are recognised, those not interested in community law could also study for such degrees. But they would need to do so with their eyes open, knowing they might not get to practise in other areas because of the keen competition.

Second, the policy of allowing only full-time foreign law degree holders from certain universities to practise hinders social mobility.

Only those from well-to-do families can afford to go overseas to study full time. Most others seeking advancement can hardly afford the fees, living expenses and opportunity cost involved in overseas study, while knowing they may not secure a training contract with a law firm.

While the third law school should ease the shortage of community lawyers, it will not suffice as its graduates cannot be forced to practise only community law.

Tan Soon Meng

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Suit against DBS: Was account closed?

Straits Times
04 Sep 2014
Selina Lum

MYSTERY surrounds a DBS fixed-deposit account opened in 1983 by a prominent Malaysian businessman, who is taking the banking giant to court to claim money he says it owes him.

The bank's case is that Mr David Chua Kok Tee, 66, closed the account within two years of opening it.

But Mr Chua said he never closed the account, which had an initial deposit of $135,954.43, and was to be renewed automatically every month at the prevailing interest rate.

He said the account lay untouched for 29 years until he came across the original receipt two years ago, which led him to enquire about it.

DBS told him the account had been closed, but it could not provide any transaction details since records of closed accounts are not kept beyond seven years.

Mr Chua denied closing the account and sued the bank after it rejected his demands to return his money. He is now claiming the principal sum, plus interest accrued since April 1983, for an unspecified total in the six-day hearing which opened in the High Court yesterday.

Mr Chua is a property developer who holds directorships and appointments in commercial and administrative organisations in Malaysia.

He opened the fixed-deposit account in March 1983 as security for a safe deposit box facility with the bank. The original fixed-deposit receipt was kept in the box and retrieved with other items in June 2012, when the DBS branch terminated the facility and the box had to be closed.

Mr Chua wanted the fixed-deposit funds credited to his current account, but DBS could not retrieve records of the account.

After he complained to the Monetary Authority of Singapore in October 2012, DBS asked for more time to investigate. In January last year, the bank told him that its records showed the account had been closed.

Mr Chua, represented by Mr Tan Teng Muan, maintains this is not the case, noting that the receipt, which has to be presented to the bank for withdrawal, was in his personal possession.

But DBS, represented by Mr Tham Hsu Hsien, said the original receipt was defunct as it would be superseded by a new receipt that would have been issued when the deposit was renewed in April 1983.

The bank contends that documents will show the account was closed by 1985. DBS also argues that Mr Chua is barred from bringing the suit as he has passed the statutory time limit of six years.

selinal@sph.com.sg

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Panel did not highlight shortage of lawyers: Ministry - Forum

Straits Times
28 Aug 2014

THE 4th Committee on the Supply of Lawyers, in its 2013 review, did not find a shortage in the overall number of lawyers ("Not easy to get law grads to enter other fields" by Miss Annia Hsu; Sunday).

Instead, it highlighted a mismatch between supply and demand; specifically, a shortage of family and criminal practitioners. The third law school was recommended as a targeted way to address this.

Many Singaporeans want to pursue a law degree. The third law school can help meet some of this demand, albeit in a very modest way, as it will enrol about 50 to 70 students per year, as otherwise the aspiring students will go overseas anyway. But the third law school will seek to get its students to specialise in areas such as family law and criminal law.

Miss Hsu suggested that the possible glut of lawyers can be dealt with by controlling the number of foreign lawyers. That is not correct. Foreign lawyers can practise only the law of the foreign jurisdiction they are qualified from; they cannot practise Singapore law.

Such foreign lawyers, practising foreign law, contribute to Singapore's role as a leading financial and business centre internationally, and the jobs that are created in those sectors.

The central issue is that within the last three years, the number of Singaporeans enrolling in overseas law schools has more than doubled to 1,500. This represents 30 per cent of the entire profession in Singapore.

The Ministry of Law has highlighted these figures so that students have a better understanding of the market to help them decide whether or not they wish to pursue a law degree.

Praveen Randhawa (Ms)

Press Secretary to Minister, Ministry of Law

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Barriers to end-of-life preparations: Forum

Straits Times
12 Sep 2014

EARLY end-of-life preparations are important for peace of mind ("More Singaporeans making end-of-life preparations"; Sept 1). However, it is not an entirely smooth and easy process for some.

First, there is the language barrier. A significant proportion of people aged 55 and above speak only Mandarin and do not know any English.

The problem is that all legal documents, including those for the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), are in English. Thus, the language barrier deters some from making end-of-life preparations.

At Life Point, a project by the Society of Sheng Hong Welfare Services, volunteers help to explain the documents in a language that the elderly can understand, and help them to fill in the LPA form. For a nominal fee, the elderly can use a one-stop service to get their LPA signed by a lawyer and delivered to the Office of the Public Guardian.

Second, there is little public awareness of the LPA. Many elderly folk still do not know what it is for and how to go about obtaining one.

To increase public awareness, Life Point started public education on end-of-life preparations, including obtaining an LPA.

Third, it is not easy for some elderly folk who live alone to find a suitable donee (someone to make decisions on their behalf should they lose their mental capacity). They may have no family members to turn to and their friends are equally old. Others are not confident about entrusting their property and affairs to their friends.

With smaller family units and longer lifespans, this group is getting bigger. I hope the Government can help by setting up a public trustee service.

Liau Yi Fang (Ms)

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He 'took advantage of widow's feelings': Tussle over widow's $40m assets

Straits Times
04 Sep 2014
Carolyn Khew & Toh Yong Chuan

Woman's niece seeks to lift Lasting Power of Attorney given to man

BEFORE she met a 40-year-old tour guide from China, Madam Chung Khin Chun threw lavish parties, had a large art collection and several employees loyal to her.

But after the tour guide moved into Madam Chung's $30 million Gerald Crescent bungalow, he prevented her from seeing her close friends, sold her jewellery and art, emptied her bank accounts and even sacked her long-time maid and driver.

These are the claims against Mr Yang Yin, who has not given his side of the story, in a court case.

Madam Chung's niece, Madam Hedy Mok, 60, has applied to lift the Lasting Power of Attorney which has given Mr Yang control over her 87-year-old aunt's assets, alleging that he had taken advantage of a vulnerable woman who was this year diagnosed with dementia.

The application includes a lengthy affidavit by Madam Chang Phie Chin, 84.

In or around 2004, Madam Chang was asked to move in with Madam Chung and her husband, Dr Chou Sip King. Dr Chou, a wheelchair user who died in 2007, had wanted Madam Chang to take care of his wife.

In 2008, Madam Chang introduced Mr Yang to Madam Chung during a holiday to China.

She had first met him in Shanghai in 2005. "I looked up the defendant to act as our tour guide since I already knew him," Madam Chang said in her affidavit.

Mr Yang kept in touch with Madam Chung and, over time, got her to remit between $4,000 and $40,000 to him. In 2009, he moved in to live with her.

Madam Chang, who has known Madam Chung for more than 50 years, said Mr Yang "manipulated" and "took advantage" of her friend's feelings.

"He would frequently make physical advances towards (Madam Chung), shamelessly hugging and kissing her in front of myself and the maids and driver," related Madam Chang. "He would have his meals with (Madam Chung), uttering sweet nothings to her."

Mr Yang "acted as if he owned the house, bossing the maids and driver around rudely", Madam Chang said in the affidavit, adding that he eventually "ordered" certain people, including neighbours, not to visit Madam Chung.

He terminated the services of the widow's driver in September 2009, saying the man had attacked him.

In 2012, one of Madam Chung's maids also had her employment terminated by Mr Yang. She had told Madam Chang that her employer had to ask her for money to buy food as she was afraid to ask Mr Yang, the affidavit said.

Madam Chang, who moved out in 2011 because of Mr Yang's behaviour, accused him of selling off her friend's art collection, and spending the money on his frequent overseas trips, where he supposedly stayed at luxury hotels.

In her affidavit, Madam Mok stated that she understands Mr Yang had taken people to view the $30 million bungalow.

The Straits Times yesterday contacted Mr Yang, who was overseas. He declined to speak to the newspaper. But his 34-year-old wife on Tuesday insisted that her "husband has looked after the old grandmother for five years".

Also on Tuesday, she and her two young children were made to leave the bungalow, into which they had moved a year ago, after a seven-hour standoff with Madam Mok, a travel agency owner.

Mr Yang has asked the court for an adjournment to respond to the allegations. The hearing will resume on Sept 24.

kcarolyn@sph.com.sg

tohyc@sph.com.sg


$50,000 retirement gift for driver

MADAM Chung Khin Chun, who is embroiled in a legal tussle over the control of her $40 million assets, was generous and good-tempered, said those who know her.

The 87-year-old headed Singapore General Hospital's physiotherapy department in the 1960s, according to retired physiotherapist Yip Foong Yee, 78, a former colleague. "She was a popular physiotherapist because she was easy-going and gentle," said Madam Yip.

Madam Chung was married to Dr Chou Sip King, a general practitioner who retired after having a stroke. He died in 2007.

The couple were inseparable, said close family friend Chang Phie Chin, 84, who has known them for more than half a century. "They were a very loving couple," she told The Straits Times. "When Dr Chou had a stroke in 1983, she stopped working to be close to him."

Neighbours recalled seeing the couple going on walks in the manicured backyard garden of their bungalow at Gerald Crescent, near Yio Chu Kang Road. The large garden, which had fruit trees, was about the size of half a football field.

"She would ask the maid to pass rambutans to the neighbours, she is very generous," said property agent Linda Tan, 50. She has been neighbours with Madam Chung since 1999.

Her generosity extended to her employees as well. Mr Jarudin Mustafa, 80, was Madam Chung's family driver and gardener from 1979 to 2009. When he left her employment, she gave him $50,000 as a retirement gift. He said: "She treated me very well, like her own family."

TOH YONG CHUAN

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PatSnap makes patent search easy

Straits Times
28 Aug 2014
Grace Chng

A LOCAL start-up has devised a system that lets people quickly search the database of hundreds of millions of patents granted worldwide.

PatSnap set out to disrupt the existing system that required people to plough through the data using legalese and technical terms as search words and phrases, a tedious and often confusing process.

The firm's online service, PatSnap Global Patent Database, allows searchers to use simple English terms when scouring the database.

PatSnap's search engine was launched in 2012, following a beta service that was introduced in 2010 to test the market. It is now used by about 500 organisations worldwide, including Nasa, Pepsi, IBM, smartphone firm Xiaomi, Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) and local tertiary institutions. Around 80 per cent of its customers are from outside Singapore.

The firm, which was founded in 2007, is cash-flow positive and has raised about $6.7 million, including its latest round of capital raising which pulled in $4.5 million earlier this month.

The funding exercise was led by local venture capital firm Vertex Venture Holdings.

PatSnap co-founder Jeffrey Tiong, 30, said the fresh funds will be used for product development and marketing expansion.

Its search engine is the only one around that can represent patent searches visually in three-dimensional topographical maps.

A search can result in up to 50,000 patents being located. These can be "visualised" in a map to represent different clusters of technologies as well as different patent owners.

A smartphone patent search, for example, may come up with patent owners Apple, Google, Samsung, Xiaomi and mobile chip firm Qualcomm. Each can be represented by a diffent colour. The different technologies like microprocessors, imaging and user interface can be clustered together.

"This view allows users to quickly identify the relevant technology clusters without having to read through each patent," said Mr Tiong.

PatSnap processes millions of patents each week from all the different government patent data sources throughout the world. "We then clean up the data. For example, IBM can be registered in the patents as International Business Machines, IBM Pte Ltd or just IBM. So we standardise it all to IBM so that our search engine can look for everything under IBM."

PatSnap is focusing on the patent search market, which was worth about US$833 million in 2010, said Mr Tiong, a Malaysian who is now a Singapore permanent resident. He also wants to expand further to include business users like marketers, corporate development and business development executives and bankers and anyone tinkering with innovation.

"This is a faster growing market estimated to be at least seven to eight times larger than the traditional patent search market used by patent lawyers and patent engineers."

His dream is to make PatSnap like e-commerce giant Amazon.

While Amazon offers a platform for merchants to sell goods online, PatSnap wants to accelerate the rate of innovation and discovery for inventors, firms and research institutes.  "Every country is promoting a knowledge economy. For this to happen, there must be innovation. We want to accelerate innovation by hooking up inventors, investors and organisations together," he said.

"Maybe they can find technologies they can license or firms they can acquire. This accelerates the innovation process. My hope is that SMEs here can also use the service to look for patents they can license so as to grow faster."

Annual subscriptions for PatSnap's service starts from $5,000.

chngkeg@sph.com.sg

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Guidelines clarify use of personal data for social, healthcare sectors

TODAY
12 Sep 2014
Tan WeiZhen

More clarity has been provided on how personal information should be handled under the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), which came into effect in July.

If a healthcare institution wishes to conduct research using the personal data and medical records of patients, it would not need to seek consent to use the information if it no longer has their contact details.

This was a scenario given under a set of guidelines issued yesterday by the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) for the healthcare, social, education and photography sectors.

However, the healthcare institution would have to ensure the data is used in the public’s interest and not in a way that is detrimental to patients. And it would have to get patients’ consent if it is able to contact them.

“If there is a need for a healthcare institution to use its patients’ personal data for research purposes and the institution is able to get such consent from its patients, it will have to do so,” said a PDPC spokesman.

The PDPC released the advisory guidelines after a three-week public consultation from May to June.

It has said the healthcare, social, education and photography sectors are among those that typically have to handle personal information in high volumes and that guidelines issued are based on sector-specific scenarios that happen on a regular basis.

In other healthcare-related guidelines, in the case of a general practitioner referring his patient to a specialist, consent is deemed to have been given as long as the patient agrees to the referral.

The social service sector, which drew the most feedback during the consultation — seven of 15 responses — was concerned about how fund-raising messages are sent to donors.

The PDPC clarified yesterday that voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) are not allowed to include fund-raising inserts in individual customers’ monthly mailers in collaboration with other companies.

However, they can send text messages to their donors and volunteers to ask for donations, subject to the rules of the Do Not Call (DNC) registry.

In the education sector, a question commonly raised by those who responded to the consultation was over the responsibility of school transport operators under the PDPA when using students’ data.

Based on the guidelines, the operators are considered to be an intermediary processing data on behalf of the schools, and schools will be held responsible for complying with the Act.

Meanwhile, those who are concerned that photographs taken of them may be used for an organisation’s annual reports or other corporate publications now have their fears allayed. The organisations taking these pictures will have to ask for consent to use the pictures of these individuals, said the PDPC yesterday.

PDPC chairman Leong Keng Thai said: “These guidelines are aimed at providing greater clarity to businesses and helping consumers to gain a better understanding of how to comply with the PDPA and protect personal data under their care. The PDPC will continue to develop resources to help businesses.”

Those found to breach the data-protection provisions under the PDPA may be fined or ordered to destroy the information, among other enforcement measures.

weizhen@mediacorp.com.sg

Copyright 2014 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

Negligent drivers who cause death will now face jail time

TODAY
04 Sep 2014
Neo Chai Chin

SINGAPORE — Instead of a fine, the default starting sentence for motorists who cause death by negligent driving will now be a jail term of up to four weeks. This is before the extent of their negligence and other factors are taken into account, three High Court judges ruled in a landmark judgment issued yesterday.

However, such traffic death cases — which fall under s 304A(b) of the Penal Code — will not carry an automatic custodial sentence as the court will examine the circumstances of each case. The sentencing benchmark for such offences was set out by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who led a specially-constituted three-judge panel in hearing an appeal by prosecutors to impose jail time on a sleepy driver who killed one and injured 11 others.

In upping her sentence from a S$10,000 fine to four weeks’ imprisonment, the judges agreed that Hue An Li, who did surveillance at a casino and had gone without sleep for 24 hours prior to the accident, had demonstrated egregious negligence.

Detailing the grounds of what the judges called a “significant change in the law” yesterday, CJ Menon distinguished between rash and negligent driving in the written judgment.

Different maximum penalties were prescribed for death caused by rashness and negligence, in amendments made to the Penal Code in 2008.

In general, a rash offender is aware of the potential risks that could arise from his conduct, he wrote.

In sentencing Hue to four weeks’ jail, the court had paid heed to the hitherto entrenched position that a fine would usually suffice for such traffic death cases. She would have received a much longer prison term had the judges not taken past cases into account, he said.

CJ Menon added that speeding, drink-driving and sleepy driving would call for a starting point of between two and four months’ jail, with the extent of harm caused to be taken into account during sentencing.

The judges cautioned unfit drivers against taking the wheel: “We would like to take this opportunity to signal to drivers the consequences of the tremendous risks that they take on, not only to themselves but also to other innocent road users, when they drive despite not being in a fit condition to do so.”

In Hue’s case, the 27-year-old went out to meet a friend after a 12-hour work shift on March 14 last year, only going home 12 hours later.

She blanked out at the wheel and crashed into a lorry ferrying foreign workers near Simei.

Yesterday’s ruling was not the first time CJ Menon has clarified sentencing principles for offences. He did so previously for first-time drink-driving and cigarette smuggling.

chaichin@mediacorp.com.sg

Copyright 2014 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

To view the judgment, click <here>.

Kong 'did not care' about recovering church loan

Straits Times
28 Aug 2014
Feng Zengkun

He allowed loan of money for wife's pop career but didn't track repayment: DPP

WHEN $300,000 was needed for, among other things, a party in the upmarket Hamptons area in New York to promote his wife's music career, City Harvest founder Kong Hee gave the go ahead.

But when it came to keeping tabs on how to repay the church loan that helped pay for it, Kong admitted in court yesterday that he lacked full knowledge.

He did not, for instance, realise Xtron Productions, which managed his wife Ho Yeow Sun's pop career, had just two years to repay the $13 million it borrowed from the church.

He also did not know that his deputy John Lam Leng Hung, the church's then investment committee chairman, failed to vet the loan to ensure the church's interests were protected.

All this showed how little Kong cared about how the church would get its money back, even as he was planning to spend it on his wife's singing career, Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong said yesterday.

"Let me be clear," said Mr Ong. "You didn't care about having to repay (the money)."

Lam had called a meeting to assess if amending the loan's terms would enable the church to recover its money only almost a year after the loan was finalised, when auditors started asking questions, said Mr Ong.

He added that the meeting's minutes were then backdated to make it seem as if the due diligence was done before the auditors raised their concerns.

Mr Ong also argued Kong was in control of Xtron.

Kong said none of this was true, and that he trusted his deputies to do the right things.

He said: "I trust my team. I trust John and that he wouldn't do anything deceptive... I don't believe he would do anything to deceive the auditor."

Kong, Lam and four others face various charges for their part in allegedly misusing some $50 million of church funds to boost Ms Ho's career, and then covering up the alleged misuse.

Kong said while he was only generally aware of the terms for the $13 million loan, he relied on others more involved in the transaction to alert him to any problems.

He denied he was in charge of Xtron, insisting its directors had the final say on the overall budget for Ms Ho's planned United States debut album, which the church loan had helped finance.

For his part, he said he had been careful in his budgeting of the album. Relying on projections that it would sell at least 1.5 million copies, he believed Xtron would eventually be able to repay the church. "At the end of the day, there was always recoverability intended, genuine recoverability that was projected by top professionals from America," Kong said.

Another key reason for his confidence, he said, was the guarantee given by long-time church member and Indonesian businessman Wahju Hanafi to underwrite losses from the church's Crossover Project, which used Ms Ho's secular music to evangelise.

Kong said Mr Hanafi gave him a verbal guarantee in 2002, and then put it in writing in 2010.

But Mr Ong argued that the verbal agreement was not included in the Xtron bond contract, or in the minutes of the meeting to discuss the loan. He also produced e-mail to show that Mr Hanafi himself faced financial trouble during the loan period.

But Kong said he was not concerned by this: Like "most millionaires I have met, (Mr Hanafi) is asset-rich and cash-poor... in my limited exposure to millionaires".

zengkun@sph.com.sg

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Ending elected presidency may not work

Straits Times
11 Sep 2014
K.C. Vijayan

Fundamental features implied that cannot be changed by Constitution

ANY move to abolish the elected presidency may well not work - even if passed by Parliament.

Two lawyers suggest such a scenario as an example of how the separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary is a basic structure which cannot be changed by altering the Constitution.

Mr Calvin Liang, of Tan Kok Quan Partnership, and Ms Sarah Shi, of the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC), write in the current issue of The Law Society's Law Gazette that recent cases have shown courts are beginning to recognise this basic structure.

They said: "The basic structure doctrine posits that a Constitution has certain written and unwritten features so fundamental that they cannot be abrogated through constitutional amendments."

Ms Shi, an Oxford University graduate, said the article, The Constitution Of Our Constitution: A Vindication Of The Basic Structure Doctrine, reflected her personal views and not the AGC's.

The elected presidency was raised in Parliament in May when an MP suggested scrapping the post and returning the role to its original ceremonial position as head of state.

The post was created when Singapore became independent in 1965. The president was chosen by Parliament but the role became an elected office with key powers, following amendments to the Constitution in 1991.

It has been argued that what Parliament gave, Parliament can take back.

But the authors point out that this confuses the issue of whether the basic structure can be changed as a matter of political reality with whether it would be lawful to abolish such a power.

They added: "More fundamentally, the basic structure is not tied to the source of the Constitution but to its core function as a power-limiting device."

The authors argue that the basic structure is implied and arises from the very nature of a Constitution and not by decree from the legislature or the courts.

They point out that the basic structure doctrine was expressly rejected by the High Court when first raised in a constitutional court case in 1989.

However, they cite a recent string of cases in which the courts have begun to recognise it.

These include Tan Eng Hong's bid for a judicial review of the constitutionality of section 377A of the Penal Code, seen as an anti- gay law, and the bid by Madam Vellama Marie Muthu for a court ruling on the prime minister's discretion on when to call a by-election when a seat falls vacant.

In addition, then Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong recognised this basic structure as part of the Singapore Constitution in the course of dealing with the case of Mohammad Faizal Sabtu, a convicted drug offender, in 2012.

Mohammad Faizal raised the question of law as to whether Parliament intruded into judicial power and violated the principle of separation of powers by requiring the court to impose a mandatory minimum sentence for a drug offence.

In addressing the question, the court looked at the Singapore constitutional framework, which is based on the British model. This accepts that a Constitution is based on certain unwritten basic principles, such as the separation of powers.

In effect, this means any move to abolish the elected presidency by constitutional change, even if supported by a referendum, could run into basic structure objections as it may "fundamentally alter the separation of powers".

vijayan@sph.com.sg

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.