AIA trial

Ex-AIA agent takes stand for insurer over fake U$5m policy sold to couple

Despite alleging that Ms Low (above) and the couple are in a conspiracy, AIA had asked her to be its witness. She told the court she was disappointed by the cold treatment from AIA and Motion Insurance Agency after the couple sued her.
Despite alleging that Ms Low (above) and the couple are in a conspiracy, AIA had asked her to be its witness. She told the court she was disappointed by the cold treatment from AIA and Motion Insurance Agency after the couple sued her. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

She says her ambition led her to agree with clients to defraud AIA

A key witness took the stand this week in a court case initiated by an elderly Indonesian couple against insurer AIA, over a fake US$5.06 million (S$7 million) insurance policy she sold to them.

Over the last three days, former AIA top agent Sally Low, 38, has appeared in court as the insurer's witness. During her testimony, she rebutted allegations made against her by her disgruntled customers, Mr Ong Han Ling, and his wife, Mrs Enny Ariandini Pramana, both 77.

The High Court case got under way on Feb 2.

Ms Low also aired her disappointment at AIA and Motion Insurance Agency over what she feels is the cold treatment she has received from them since she was sued.

The Ongs had filed the suit in 2012 against AIA and Motion Insurance for negligence and breach of duty of care - thereby causing loss to them - when handling their insurance matters, as well as asserting AIA's vicarious liability for Ms Low's fraudulent acts.

AIA had counterclaimed that the Ongs were in a conspiracy with Ms Low to defraud AIA. This was also Ms Low's defence against the Ongs.

  • About the case

  • The saga began in late 2002 when Mr Ong Han Ling was allegedly sold a fake five-year AIA Thank You policy by then-AIA agent Sally Low.

    Mr Ong claimed that after he remitted the premium, Low, without his knowledge or consent, used the funds to buy four AIA policies for him, his wife and their daughter.

    He alleged that midway through the tenure of the AIA Thank You policy, Low deceived him into giving the insurance proceeds from three of the unauthorised policies to her. Her scheme came to light in 2008, after Mr Ong learnt from AIA that the Thank You policy was bogus.

    AIA made a police report against Low and sacked her in December 2009. Mr Ong also made a police report against Low in January 2010 for allegedly cheating him of money. He sued her for damages totalling US$2.25 million and $2.99 million.

    Low counterclaimed that the fake policy was part of a ploy cooked up by Mr Ong for both of them to defraud AIA for financial gains to be shared between them. In May 2011, she was charged with 19 criminal charges, including cheating the Ongs, using forged documents and money laundering.

    Lorna Tan

Despite alleging that the three are in a conspiracy, the insurer had asked Ms Low to be its witness and AIA appeared to have paid $35,000 to legal firm JLC Advisors to procure Ms Low's affidavit.

At the start of the trial, two handwriting experts agreed that the numerous documents purportedly signed by the Ongs were forged.

On Tuesday, Ms Low alleged that she agreed to join Mr Ong in the ploy to defraud AIA because she had an ambition to be its top agent. She said she had not "thought that far" (that she could be liable to be charged in court for a crime) and had always thought they would change their minds.

She claimed that she did not see the Ongs sign their application insurance forms but despite that, she signed as a witness on the forms, which she knew was the wrong thing to do. She disagreed when Mr Ong's lawyer, Ms Deborah Barker of KhattarWong, asked if she had forged the Ongs' signatures.

Ms Low also said that AIA "has never offered any help" to her since she was sued by the Ongs. She alleged that even "very, very simple requests like requests for documents" were turned down by her previous employer, so she had to go through the "official way".

She claimed that there was a discrepancy in information disclosed by AIA during the Ongs' suit against her as compared with what the insurer is currently disclosing in its suit with the Ongs.

"The information that they could have disclosed would have helped me at that point in time, but they did not disclose it. Now, because they are in this suit, they have no choice but to disclose all this information to protect their own backside. So I'm sorry to say after the suit, I do not see them as good employers," said Ms Low.

During her cross-examination last Thursday, Mrs Ong told the court that she had no inkling that she would "get so much misery" with the fake AIA Thank You policy.

"At that time, when we wanted to take it, you know, it was just a simple and nice policy suited for us... if we set aside for our old age so that we don't depend on our children... I did not know that it (would) turn out to be a mess like this," she said. Amid the legal acrimony, the Ongs spent their 50th wedding anniversary in court last Friday with Mrs Ong on the witness stand.

The couple are seeking damages totalling between $4.2 million and $7.2 million. They allege that AIA and Motion failed to verify directly with them when five tranches of the AIA Thank You premiums of US$5.06 million did not match premiums payable for the unauthorised policies, resulting in suspiciously large refund cheques not being encashed for a long time.

Ms Low also appeared to have been given free rein in managing the funds, allegedly instructing AIA to issue the unauthorised policies.

Witnesses who have been cross- examined include two handwriting experts, the Ongs, their son, Mr Peter Pramana, and their two private bankers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2016, with the headline 'Ex-agent takes stand for insurer'. Print Edition | Subscribe