Defunct sports academy faces legal action from parents

A sports academy for children - whose directors include a former national footballer - is facing legal action from angry parents after it closed down suddenly and allegedly left them thousands of dollars out of pocket.

Former Singapore defender R. Sasikumar was a director of The Guardian Academy, which folded almost a year ago after just 22 months in business.

At least six parents have clubbed together to launch a civil action against the academy, which charged between $2,800 and $4,200 to nurture children from three years old up until the age of 18.

The case is likely to be heard next week - nearly a year since they received an e-mail from The Guardian Academy's River Valley-based office informing them that it was ceasing operations.

It is believed that many parents have yet to receive a refund while some are still paying the fees by monthly credit card instalments.

Claims specialist Jessiy Sugenthiran, 35, who signed up her four-year-old daughter in 2013, is still paying the school as her bank cannot stop the payments unless The Guardian Academy terminates them. She said: "It may not be a lot of money, but many of us are middle-income families and we are very stressed.

"We've gone to the authorities but nothing has been done. We just want justice and our money back. This is our last resort."

Others are still considering whether to take legal action.

Businessman Aloysius Chia, 42, who signed up his 10-year-old son in 2013, said: "We don't want to incur more losses. We thought we were investing in our kids' future but it turned out to be a bad investment."

The parents had previously filed a complaint with the Consumers Association of Singapore, but its executive director Seah Seng Choon told The Straits Times that the academy had not responded to its calls and letters, and urged parents to seek legal advice.

Meanwhile, Mr Sasikumar said that he had offered parents an option of sending their children to a similar sports academy - with different terms and conditions - but they did not take it up.

He declined to comment on the upcoming court case.

Another shareholder is Mr Haridas Letcheman, the academy's former vice-president of sales. He said: "This is a company which ran into a cash-flow situation... I can only go to the court to say what I know, but the company's accounts are not handled by me.

"We never intended to cheat anyone."

limyihan@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Joanna Seow