SINGAPORE - A 39-year-old Chinese national has been hauled to court for allegedly appointing a Singaporean woman to buy a unit in a landed housing estate in Ang Mo Kio on his behalf.
As a foreigner, Chen Xiaopu would have required government approval to buy the semi-detached house and he was on Monday (Dec 13) charged with an offence under the Residential Property Act.
According to court records, the woman involved, Song Fanrong, 49, has also been charged with three similar offences and is scheduled to plead guilty on Tuesday.
Chen is accused of appointing Song as his nominee to buy an estate at 220 Belgravia Villas on Sept 8, 2014.
This was allegedly with the intention that she would hold the property for him.
In a statement on Monday, the police said investigations by the Commercial Affairs Department found that Song had allegedly told Chen that he would not be eligible to buy the property in his own name as he was a foreigner.
She then allegedly offered to buy the property on Chen's behalf and to transfer ownership of it to him once he got his Singapore citizenship or permanent residency.
Chen is said to have accepted this offer and allegedly paid Song a portion of the money needed to buy the unit.
Song then allegedly entered into a sales and purchase agreement with the developer of the property, which was classified as restricted, the police said.
According to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) website, foreigners must seek approval before they can buy restricted property.
Such properties include terrace houses, semi-detached houses and bungalows.
Each applicant is assessed on a case-by-case basis.
The buyer must be a permanent resident here for at least five years and must make "exceptional economic contribution" to Singapore, according to the SLA.
Chen's court hearing on Monday is the latest development in a $9.5 million legal case that was reported by The Straits Times in 2017.
Chen and two other men, Mr Wang Cheng and Mr Liu Guohui, had filed a High Court suit against Song in March that year for fraudulent misrepresentation, alleging that Song had misled them into believing that she could help them apply for Singapore permanent residency or citizenship through her "good connections".
It was reported that Chen, Mr Wang and Mr Liu were friends who had made millions in real estate.
Meanwhile, Song, a naturalised Singapore citizen, ran eight kindergartens, including Buttercups branches in Pasir Panjang and Rochester Drive, and Frobel pre-schools in Kallang and Woodlands.
The three men said they signed contracts with Song after she offered to help them move to Singapore under a purported scheme that required at least $500,000 invested in a Singapore company.
The men said they later found out that the minimum investment under the actual scheme was only $50,000.
They claimed that Song had told them she was the chairman of an association founded by Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat Sen and supported by the Government.
She also claimed that her Singaporean husband was the brother of Singapore's deputy prime minister, according to previous reports.
The three men also alleged that Song had persuaded them to buy four semi-detached units at Belgravia Villas and they had signed agreements stating that she would buy the units in her name and transfer the properties to them after they obtained permanent residency.
In total, the men allegedly paid her $5.5 million for the units.
They later found out the agreements had no legal effect.
However, Song had said in her defence in court that the trio had persuaded her to buy the properties in her name and the paperwork was handled by Mr Wang.
In court on Monday, Chen's lawyer said his client is a victim of fraud and hopes to resolve the issue in a pre-trial conference with the Attorney-General's Chambers, Lianhe Wanbao reported.
If not, Chen is expected to plead not guilty, the Chinese evening daily said.
Chen is expected to return to court on Jan 24.
If found guilty of the Residential Property Act offence, he could be fined up to $100,000, jailed for up to three years, or both.