Debt collection firm boss falsely claimed to be legal consultant

Tan Kian Tiong pleaded guilty to 40 counts of being an unauthorised person acting as an advocate or solicitor on Nov 26, 2018.
Tan Kian Tiong pleaded guilty to 40 counts of being an unauthorised person acting as an advocate or solicitor on Nov 26, 2018.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - A debt collection company sent out letters of demand to debtors in which it claimed to be a "legal consultant" - even though it was not.

A court heard that the sole proprietor of Double Ace Associates (DAA) - 52-year-old Tan Kian Tiong - had never possessed a certificate to practice law, nor was his name listed on the Roll of the Supreme Court of Singapore.

He pleaded guilty on Monday (Nov 26) to 40 counts of being an unauthorised person acting as an advocate or solicitor.

Tan also admitted 20 counts of falsely stating that his company was a "limited liability partnership" or "LLP". All the offences were committed between 2013 and 2015.

The court heard that 1,083 other similar charges will be taken into consideration during sentencing.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Teo Guan Siew, Tay Jingxi and David Koh stated in their court documents that Tan had been a debt collector for about 20 years.

The DPPs stated that as part of his business, Tan sent out letters of demand to all alleged debtors of his clients.

They added: "The accused obtained the template for these LODs (letters of demand) from the Internet, and made some modifications to it to suit his purposes."

Tan instructed his employees to use a standard format for all DAA's letters of demand.

On Aug 5, 2014, a 56-year-old woman received one such letter from DAA and showed it to her lawyer for legal advice. A month later, the lawyer lodged a complaint with the Law Society stating that DAA had claimed to be "legal consultants".

In October that year, the Law Society wrote to the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC), stating: "It appears that DAA provides legal advice, and the council is also of the view that DAA's letter of demand is a letter threatening legal proceedings and it is not a letter of notice that the matter will be handed to a solicitor for legal proceedings."

Another woman received a letter of demand from DAA in June 2015 and she wrote a complaint letter to the Law Society as she thought that it had come from a "legal firm".

The society wrote a second letter to the AGC and the Commercial Affairs Department then carried out its investigations against DAA. Tan was offered bail of $20,000 and is expected to be sentenced on Jan 9.