Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Singapore. A hub for white collar crime.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Only some months ago, we read of David Rasif, a Singapore attorney who stole $12 million of his clients money and absconded. He remains missing till today. He may be is some tax haven in some corner of the world enjoying the stolen money; with no qualms whatever. I mention his case only because it is a record. The highest amount embezzled by any lawyer in Singapore's history.

But attorney Mr. Rasif is not alone among attorneys in crime in that island. Despite the fact that the entire population population of lawyers in that island of about 4 million people, and there are only 3,000 lawyers, anyone reading the Singapore press regularly will notice there is at least one attorney a month stealing their client's money and making off with it. The size of the amounts, stolen is alarming. Usually it runs into several millions but as of late even petty amounts like $30,000.00 are being stolen. It is as if Singapore lawyers no longer consider embezzlement of client's funds a crime!

It is not only embezzlement. There are a series of cases, almost on a daily basis, of lawyers bribing clients for cases, bribing policemen and other forms of professional misconduct.

At the rate lawyers in Singapore continue to steal, it is slowly getting the name of the most dishonest set of lawyers in the world, relative to the size of the profession, numbering only 3,000.

But lawyers are not the only ones running off with moneys entrusted to them. Everyone has heard of the corruption in the National Kidney Foundation where TT Durai, a PAP supporter had stolen large amounts of money and has been convicted for it. Yet it is well known in Singapore that he is unlikely to go to jail, as he is within the inner circles and a collaborator of the ruling PAP and Lee Kuan Yew. It is expected that the judges who are themselves beholden to the ruling party will in all probability give him a slap in the wrist, let him off, and the government will continue employing him in one position or another with high pay.

Then we have both the Chairman and the wife of the same organization who were caught laundering the money in Hong Kong. At the same time, while the lawyers continue to embezzle with astounding success, the others too are in the stealing game. A series of managers of charitable organizations have run off with the money in the charities' accounts. This has been a regular occurrence for some time.

The latest case of the ex-condo manager who ran off with $200,000 was reported in the Singapore press of Dec 26, 2007 headed "Ex-condo managing agent believed to have made off with $200,000". It refers to a woman Amutha Perumal who managed 4 condos in the Selegie Road area and Hougang who had left Singapore about a year ago with the money. Both herself and the money remains unrecoverable.

I have only referred to these embezzlement cases. There are also numerous cases of theft corruption tax evasion and all sorts of other white collar crime almost on a daily basis. This runs entirely contrary to the repeated mantra in the Singapore state controlled press that Singapore is a safe and law abiding country. Far from it. In fact it is the white collar crime hub in South East Asia; getting top spot especially for having the highest number of dishonest lawyers.

This bad name that the legal profession has acquired must have serious deleterious effect on the ability of lawyers to attract and retain business clients to whom financial fidelity in lawyers is important. This bad name goes a long way in dissuading anyone from dealing with Singapore lawyers when money is involved. At the rapid rate at which lawyers scoot off with their client's money, what guarantee is there that they will not do it them.

One can safely say to a large extent, the Singapore legal profession has been discredited as far as financial integrity is concerned.

There may be many reasons for this trait of dishonesty which has begun to run among Singaporeans but one major reason is Lee Kuan Yew himself. If he is the man at the head of the country, then he is setting a very bad example. And people are saying that if it is all right for Lee Kuan Yew, then it should be all right for them. Which reminds me, there was a Chinese cooking show on television here in Northern California, hosted by the Master Chinese Chef Mr. Yan, which was called "If Yan Can Cook, So Can I". Singaporeans in Singapore could possibly be saying "If Lee Can Steal, So Can I".

Lee Kuan Yew himself is seen as a thief. I am of course talking of his paying himself $3 million a year in salary and the several other millions he takes without telling anyone. This is theft. And he is a thief. And so is his son who he has appointed Prime Minister who pays himself the same or even more. We never know how much. His son, by doing this, is also a thief. And so are all the other friends and minions of his to who he distributes his largess generously. They are all thieves. There is no other better word to describe them.

Now if indeed, if such crooks actually govern the country, what do you expect the ordinary people to think? Well, they naturally say, that if theft is good enough for Lee Kuan Yew the Minister Mentor, then it is good enough for me.

So larceny, embezzlement and fraud becomes a way of life. This becomes part of the Singapore psyche, part of Singapore mindset, part of Singapore philosophy. And it is only going to get worse. In fact, although some are getting caught, they appear not too concerned. As I write; a lawyer, one among the 3,000 is serving a long sentence in Changi prison. Several years. His name is Colin Cains. I knew him when in Singapore. He seemed to me then a regular human being. I never knew the other side of him. I know of another Malay lawyer whose name slips my mind. I knew him too. He too will spend a long time in that prison. It is almost impossible to fathom, why ordinary normal attorneys in Singapore have suddenly become thieves and crooks.

We have had a number of spokesmen from government departments trying to brush off any criticism by saying there are thieves in every country. That may be true, but not at such great numbers as happens in Singapore. Mind you, Singapore has only about 4 million people. Only 3,000 lawyers. Yet despite such small numbers, there is almost one lawyer a week stealing money, involved in corruption or other forms of misconduct. So it is not a normal phenomenon of normal human frailty. It is almost as if, stealing money is the right thing to do, if you have a chance! It has become a uniquely Singapore phenomenon.

As I said, the country is run by a bunch of crooks. Crooks who take your money when they want, sue you for defamation if your protest and imprison you if persisted in criticism. It is a country run by an unprincipled lot, Lee Kuan Yew and company, who do whatever they want, anytime they want. These people turn out to be bad examples of what humanity is supposed to be. And regrettably many Singaporeans are learning their bad ways.

Gopalan Nair
39737 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite A1
Fremont, CA 94538, USA
Tel: 510 657 6107
Fax: 510 657 6914

No comments: