SINGAPORE - A lawyer who falsely certified that he had witnessed the execution of a mortgage for a home three years ago was on Tuesday (July 26) fined $6,000.
Kanthosamy Rajendran, 55, pleaded guilty in a district court to two charges under the Land Titles Act; he was fined $3,000 for each count.
The court heard that on March 27, 2013, United Overseas Bank (UOB) contacted Kanthosamy and his firm, Relianze Law Corporation, to act as their solicitors in the mortgage of a unit at Sunshine Residence in Lorong K Telok Kurau.
The bank also handed over two letters. One stated that Mr Wan Yi Yang, 30, had been offered a housing loan of $584,000 by the bank for that property. The other stated that Mr Wan had purportedly accepted a housing loan and wanted the law firm to act for him.
Acting on the instructions he received from the bank, Mr Kanthosamy acted for both the mortgagee, UOB, and the purported mortgagor, Mr Wan, in the conveyancing transaction which was completed on May 20, 2013.
But on July 1, 2013, Mr Wan made a police report stating that he had received a property tax notification from the Inland Tax Revenue Authority, informing him that the Sunshine Residence home had been transferred to him on May 21; he claimed that he had not purchased the property.
Investigations revealed that on May 20, 2013, Kanthosamy signed a form certifying that the Mortgage Instrument, an agreement to finance the purchase of the home, was correct, even though the lawyer had not witnessed Mr Wan signing it.
On the same day, he also signed a form certifying that the Transfer Instrument, another document related to the transfer of the property, was correct. But he had never met Mr Wan and did not contact him to ask if he accepted the transfer of the property.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Charis Low asked for a fine in the range of $3,000 to $4,000 for each charge.
"There is undoubtedly a strong element of public interest in deterring such conduct by solicitors, not only in the context of a breach of professional duties, but in light of the broader need to safeguard the conveyancing regime in Singapore," she said.
"The entire system of conveyancing is premised on formal documentation and proper processes. In a typical conveyancing transaction, the solicitor is involved at many stages of the process - conducting a title search, executing the sale and purchase agreement, lodging a caveat, and eventually executing the transfer," DPP Low said.
"The conveyancing solicitor's role is therefore especially key, as he or she is entrusted with the fundamental duty of protecting the consumer's interests by ensuring that the proper procedures are observed throughout the legal conveyancing process."
She added: "Falsely certifying to the correctness of instruments is a clear breach of statutory duty. It opens up the possibility of fraud, and it severely compromises the integrity of the statutory process that has been devised to render secure such conveyancing transactions."
Kanthosamy could have been fined $5,000 for each charge. He is the first person to be prosecuted for falsely certifying the correctness of a document under the Land Titles Act. The maximum punishment for this offence was raised to a $25,000 fine in 2014.