Moneylending property agent jailed

PHOTO: ST GRAPHICS

He arranged loans at exorbitant interest rates to low-income flat sellers desperate for cash

A property agent who ran an unlicensed moneylending business doling out loans to desperate flat sellers at exorbitant interest rates was jailed for 40 months and fined $240,000 yesterday .

Tan Tee Theng, also known as Simon, 40, a shareholder of Mindlink Consultants in Bukit Batok Crescent, loaned out $229,000 and made at least $123,000 in interest.

As this was not his first brush with the law, he faced enhanced punishment under the Moneylenders Act. Tan had pleaded guilty to six of 29 charges.

Some time between December 2009 and July 2010, the flat sellers came to know of him through the newspaper or fliers, which advertised his professional services in the buying and selling of residential units.

The four debtors, aged between 57 and 68 and all blue-collar workers, engaged him to act as their real estate agent in the sale of their HDB flats.

During the process of selling the flats, he would ask if they needed money in advance, which he could loan for a fee. He told them of the interest rates, which ranged from 10 to 20 per cent a month.

He would disburse the loans by issuing cheques to them and was repaid from the proceeds of the sale of their flats.

The court heard that the debtors earned less than $1,500 a month.

Highlighting aggravating factors in the case, Deputy Public Prosecutor Chee Ee Ling said Tan made exorbitant profits at the expense of the borrowers, who were vulnerable home owners in desperate need of cash and had resorted to selling their flats to raise funds.

No restitution was made.

Tan, who had two similar convictions, could have been fined between $30,000 and $300,000 and jailed for up to seven years on each of the charges.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2015, with the headline 'Moneylending property agent jailed'. Print Edition | Subscribe