Indonesian couple's lawsuit against AIA: Marathon hearing ends

In late 2002, Sally Low (top) sold a fake five-year Thank You policy to Mr Ong Han Ling (centre). Without his knowledge, Low used the premium to buy four policies for him, Mrs Ong (bottom) and their daughter. Midway through the tenure of the Thank Yo
In late 2002, Sally Low (above) sold a fake five-year Thank You policy to Mr Ong Han Ling. Without his knowledge, Low used the premium to buy four policies for him, Mrs Ong and their daughter. Midway through the tenure of the Thank You policy, Low deceived him into giving the proceeds from three of those policies to her.
In late 2002, Sally Low (top) sold a fake five-year Thank You policy to Mr Ong Han Ling (centre). Without his knowledge, Low used the premium to buy four policies for him, Mrs Ong (bottom) and their daughter. Midway through the tenure of the Thank Yo
In late 2002, Sally Low sold a fake five-year Thank You policy to Mr Ong Han Ling (right). Without his knowledge, Low used the premium to buy four policies for him, Mrs Ong (left) and their daughter. Midway through the tenure of the Thank You policy, Low deceived him into giving the proceeds from three of those policies to her.

A marathon court hearing of a lawsuit against insurer AIA by an Indonesian couple over a fake US$5.06 million (S$7 million) policy sold to them by a rogue AIA agent finally ended on Friday.

The first day of the 40-day hearing was in February last year.

High Court judge Belinda Ang is likely to hand down a ruling on the case in a few months.

Mr Ong Han Ling and his wife Enny Ariandini Pramana, both 78, commenced the suit in 2012 against AIA and an AIA-related firm, Motion Insurance Agency.

They sued the firms for negligence and breach of duty of care when handling their insurance. They also asserted AIA's vicarious liability for former agent Sally Low's fraudulent acts. She was jailed in May last year for eight years.

The hearing ended with two insurance industry veterans taking the stand for three days.

Former NTUC Income chief executive Tan Kin Lian was the industry expert for Mr Ong's lawyers KhattarWong, while Mr Mun Cheong Fai, former executive director at Tokio Marine Life Insurance Singapore, was AIA's expert.

 
 

The Ongs, Singapore permanent residents, are seeking damages of $4.2 million to $7.2 million. They claim AIA and Motion breached a duty of care owed to them - causing them loss. The duties included providing a sound internal system to detect and prevent fraud.

On Friday, both experts were asked for their views on the October 2002 guidelines on standards of conduct for financial advisers under the Financial Advisers Act.

Mr Tan said the insurer has a responsibility to ensure the instructions came from the customers and not through a fraudulent party, as well as to provide prompt documentation to the customers that the orders have been executed.

He added that it is the "duty of the insurance company to make sure the policy is delivered to the client". And if the insurer wishes the agent or intermediary to deliver the policy, someone else "must be responsible to make sure the policy has been delivered".

Mr Tan explained that this is necessary and prudent "because of the risk of intermediary fraud".

Low appeared to have been given free rein in managing huge sums from the Ongs, allegedly telling AIA to issue four unauthorised policies which they never received.

Mr Mun said the insurer has "that responsibility to process whatever proposals that might have come in or applications that might have come in". He agreed that under the Monetary Authority of Singapore's market conduct standards for life insurers, AIA is responsible for the conduct of its representatives like Low.

The saga began in late 2002 when Mr Ong was sold a fake five-year AIA Thank You policy by Low.

Mr Ong said 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.

Midway through the tenure of the Thank You policy, the agent 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 a bogus one.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2017, with the headline 'Indonesian couple's lawsuit against AIA: Marathon hearing ends'. Print Edition | Subscribe