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Scams in Singapore – A Legal Perspective (Part 3)

You’ve just realized you’ve been scammed. That transaction or investment you made was a sham. What should you do now?

The sooner you act, the better you will be able to protect yourself and others. It may be difficult to recover all of your stolen funds, but recovery is about more than just recouping your losses.

What are the penalties for perpetrators of scams in Singapore?

 

PENALTIES FOR BUSINESS SCAMS IN SINGAPORE

       1. Civil/Administrative Proceedings or Penalties

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (hereinafter referred as “MAS”) regulates the financial services sector in Singapore, including banks, insurance companies, finance companies, securities or capital market services companies, licensed trust companies (among others). The MAS is governed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore Act[1] (hereinafter referred as “MAS Act”).

The MAS has the power to issue binding directions and regulations to financial institutions where it considers it is in the public interest to do so (sections 27 and 28, MAS Act) to prevent money laundering or the financing of terrorism (section 27B, MAS Act). In general, the MAS has the power to conduct investigations, issue fines and revoke the operating licence of regulated financial institutions (section 28(5), MAS Act).

       2. Criminal Proceedings

The following criminal penalties may apply to participating in corporate or business fraud:

  • Companies Act (sections 201(1A), (3), (3A), (3C) and 15): Fine up to S$50,000 (and/or two years’ imprisonment in certain circumstances).
  • Dishonest misappropriation of property (section 403, Penal Code): Up to two years’ imprisonment and/or a fine. Imprisonment term can be extended to three or seven years in certain cases.
  • Criminal breach of trust (section 405, Penal Code): Up to seven years’ imprisonment or a fine, or both. Imprisonment term can be extended to 15 or 20 years in certain cases.
  • Cheating (section 415, Penal Code): Up to three years’ imprisonment and/or a fine. Imprisonment term can be extended to five or ten years in certain cases.
  • Dishonest or fraudulent disposition of property (section 421, Penal Code): Up to three years’ imprisonment and/or a fine.
  • Dishonest or fraudulent removal or concealment of property or release of claim (section 424, Penal Code): Up to three years’ imprisonment and/or a fine.
  • Falsification of accounts (section 477A, Penal Code): Up to ten years’ imprisonment and/or a fine.
  • Theft (section 378, Penal Code): Up to three years’ imprisonment and/or a fine. Imprisonment term can be extended to seven or ten years in certain cases. The penalty can include up to three strokes of the cane in certain cases.

 

      3. Civil Suits

Parties suffering damages can initiate civil suits in respect of fraud cases to recover losses under the law of tort. The court also can issue injunctions to locate and preserve assets (among other remedies) pending trial. These can usually be obtained quickly.

Punitive damages are not available.

Under Order 15, Rule 12 of the Rules of Court, it is possible to bring a representative action (similar to a class action in the US), subject to the discretion of the court.

PENALTIES FOR CHEATING/SCAMMING

According to section 415 of the Penal Code, cheating occurs when a person:

  • Fraudulently or dishonestly deceives the victim to either hand over property or money to any person, or consent that another person retains his property or money; or
  • Intentionally induces a deceived victim into either doing anything that he would not do if he had not been deceived, or omitting to do something that he would have done if he had not been deceived. The acts or omissions must also cause, or must be likely to cause, damage or harm to any person in body, mind, reputation or property.

An example of cheating includes where the cheater pretends to be from the government and intentionally deceives the victim to pay for goods which the victim did not mean to pay for.

The penalty for cheating under section 415 of the Penal Code is a fine and/or imprisonment for up to 3 years.

  • Aggravated cheating

There is a more serious form of cheating found under section 420 of the Penal Code, which targets cheating by intentional or dishonest inducement of the delivery of property.

Such aggravated cheating occurs when a person cheats and thereby dishonestly induces the victim to:

  • Hand over property to any person;
  • Partially or completely make, alter or destroy a valuable security* (such as credit cards, stored value cards and automated teller machine (ATM) cards);
  • Make, alter or destroy a signed and sealed document which may become a valuable security.

The penalty for such aggravated cheating under section 420 of the Penal Code is a fine and imprisonment for up to 10 years.

  • Other cheating offences
  • Cheating by personation

It is also an offence to “cheat by personation“. According to section 416 of the Penal Code, cheating by personation occurs when the cheater:

  • Pretends to be some other person;
  • Knowingly substitutes one person for another; or
  • Tells the victim that he or some another person (the cheater’s accomplice, for example) is someone else than who they really are,

regardless of whether the other person is alive or dead.

The penalty for cheating by personation under section 416 of the Penal Code is a fine, and/or imprisonment for up to 5 years.

  • Illegally obtaining personal information

As of 1 January 2020, it is an offence under section 416A of the Penal Code for a person to obtain, retain or supply someone else’s personal information for the purposes of facilitating the commission of an offence. This is provided that the cheater knows or has reason to believe that such information had been obtained without its owner’s consent.

An example of this offence would be the theft of identity documents by non-technological means. If the identity theft had taken place by technological means, the cheater could instead be charged with an offence under sections 3 to 6 of the Computer Misuse Act, relating to unauthorised access, modification or use of computer systems. The penalty for illegally obtaining personal information under section 416A of the Penal Code is a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 3 years.

REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO THE VICTIMS

  • Recourse through the criminal courts

In situations where you have been cheated of your property or money, the court may order the offender to make compensation to you. However, this does not automatically mean that the property or money you were cheated of can or will be recovered and returned to you. Further, a person may approach the Court under the provisions which have already been discussed hereinabove in this article.

  • Recourse through the civil courts

As an alternative, you can sue the accused party in civil court to get your money back. Even though the accused individual was found liable in a criminal case for damages, you can still file a civil lawsuit against them. Please take note that the compensation you seek through the civil courts must not include the compensation you have previously received from the criminal courts. This is so because it’s against the law to recover damages twice. Before you proceed with filing a lawsuit against the accused person yourself, it is advised that you consult with a civil litigation attorney to evaluate the merits of your case.

[1] Chapter 186, Monetary Authority of Singapore Act, 1970.

 

Please note that this article does not constitute express or implied legal advice, whether in whole or in part. For your Free First Consultation or if you simply require more information, email us at  info@silvesterlegal.com

 

 

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