Ex-property agent jailed 5 weeks for forging stamp certificate, unlawfully collecting GST

Cheon Sai Cheong, 38, pleaded guilty to one charge of using a counterfeit stamp certificate and one charge of unlawful GST collection.
Cheon Sai Cheong, 38, pleaded guilty to one charge of using a counterfeit stamp certificate and one charge of unlawful GST collection.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A former property agent was sentenced to five weeks' jail and fined $2,145 on Friday (Nov 27) for forging the stamp certificate in a property rental transaction and for issuing a counterfeit Goods and Service Tax (GST) invoice.

Cheong Sai Chong, 38, pleaded guilty to one charge of using a counterfeit stamp certificate and one charge of unlawful GST collection. One other charge was taken into consideration.

Cheong was a former property agent with the Dennis Wee Group from January 2010 to June 2012. After his real estate licence expired in July 2012, he left the company but continued to act on behalf of the landlords and tenants for the rental of two properties.

His offences came to light following a review on stamp duty compliance rates by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) in September 2013. It found that tenancy agreements for certain properties had not been stamped and the stamp duty had not been collected.

An affected tenant of a commercial property in Ang Mo Kio provided Iras with a stamp certificate as proof of stamp duty payment, but it was later found to be counterfeit.

Investigations revealed that Cheong had issued and collected $673 for the stamp duty, but did not stamp the tenancy agreements. Cheong later admitted that he had edited a scanned copy of a genuine stamp certificate from a previous property transaction and handed the counterfeit stamped certificate to the tenant.

Stamp duty is paid on documents or agreements relating to properties, including tenancy or lease agreements. A stamp certificate is issued to certify that the amount of stamp duty relating to the document or agreement has been paid.

For arranging the tenancy agreement for the same Ang Mo Kio property, Cheong was also paid an agent's commission of $4,500 by a landlord. Although he was not authorised to collect GST, he charged an additional $315 in GST using a forged invoice. The landlord paid Cheong the commission and GST.

In a media release, Iras said that it takes a serious view of any individual or business that deliberately forges stamp certificates or knowingly misrepresents counterfeit certificates as genuine.

Potential tenants and property buyers are encouraged to check the authenticity of their stamp certificates on the e-Stamping website (http://estamping.iras.gov.sg), it added. An authentic stamp certificate should bear the full details of the stamp duty payment, date and description of the document, address of the property and stamp duty amount. These details should match the information shown on the website.

Cheong could have faced up to three years' imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000 for forging the stamp certificate. He could have faced a penalty of three times the amount of tax unlawfully collected, and fined up to $10,000 for each offence.