If a land banking company has cheated the investors, is it a civil case or a criminal case? Does the Government (i.e. the Commercial Affairs Department or the Monetary Authority of Singapore) have the duty to investigate an allegation of cheating made by many investors? Can they sit idle and let other investors be cheated?
What is cheating? Cheating is described in the Penal Code of Singapore as follows:
Cheating – Whoever, by deceiving any person, fraudulently or dishonestly induces the person so deceived to deliver any property to any person, or to consent that any person shall retain any property, or intentionally induces the person so deceived to do or omit to do anything which he or she would not do or omit if he or she were not so deceived, and which act or omission causes or is likely to cause damage or harm to that person in body, mind, reputation or property, is said to "cheat". For example, A cheats if he intentionally deceives Z into a belief that A means to repay any money that Z may lend to him when A does not intend to repay it, and thereby dishonestly induces Z to lend him money.
It is the duty of the Government to enforce the law. If there is a complaint by the public that the land banking company is cheating them, the Government must at least carry out an investigation to see if cheating was involved. If there are grounds to believe that there was cheating, they should bring the case to court with the evidence (obtained through the investigation) and let the court decide.
If many members of the public lodge a similar complaint, the need to investigate is strengthened. Clearly, it is no longer a civil dispute. There is prima facie evidence of cheating.
For example, the investigation will show if the money received has been properly used for investing in the land that was intended. Has any money been mis-appropriated for other purposes? If the investment went bad, was there any money left that could be repaid to the investor?
The investors do not have the power or resources to carry out such investigation. Their lawyer (which has to be appointed at great expenses) do not have these investigative powers.
Even the act of investigation will deter the land banking company from continuing its dubious operations and put them in proper order.
If the investigation shows that there was no attempt to cheat, then the CAD can tell the investors to bring a civil case in court. But, I repeat, it is the duty for CAD to investigate the allegation.
Tan Kin Lian
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