SINGAPORE - A real estate agent's client wanted to buy a Sentosa Cove house that cost almost $24 million but he later found out that she was linked to one of China's biggest Ponzi schemes involving $10.8 billion.
When Tan Yen Hsi, who used to be a senior marketing director at CBRE Realty Associates, alerted his senior management about the matter, the firm's key executive officer told him to lodge a suspicious transaction report on the property transaction.
Even though Tan prepared a draft of the documents and was repeatedly reminded by the company's assistant head of operations to complete filing the report, the court heard that he refused to do so. He was quoted as saying that "you do not get money out of it" and that he "hates to do paperwork".
Tan, 37, who is no longer a real estate agent, was fined $10,000 on Tuesday (June 5) after admitting that he had failed to alert the authorities that the monies used to buy the Lakeshore View property could have been proceeds from his client's criminal conduct.
The court heard that his client was Chinese national Zhang Min,the former president of the Yucheng International Holdings Group which launched China's largest online peer-to-peer lender Ezubao.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Ng Jean Ting told the court that, in Sept 2015, Tan received a referral from another real estate agent to a Chinese national known as Liu Dan who had queries about buying a property in Sentosa Cove.
Tan was then introduced to Zhang the following month and they viewed the house together.
After Tan found out that Zhang wanted to buy it, he referred her to Kang Bee Leng, who was then a managing director of Sterling Law Corporation, for the conveyancing transactions.
Kang, who is no longer with the law firm, was also fined $10,000 in April after admitting that she had failed to notify the authorities that a sum of almost $5.5 million involved in the purchase of the property could have stemmed from criminal activities.
A day before the scheduled completion of the property purchase, Kang told Tan on Jan 12, 2016 that Zhang had become uncontactable. He then decided to perform online searches on Yucheng Group.
DPP Ng said: "He read articles stating that some of the Yucheng Group offices were raided in December 2015 and that the company was under investigation by the Chinese authorities for fraud."
Later, he also found an online video showing Zhang dressed in prison attire, admitting that Ezubao was a Ponzi scheme. He told his company about the matter, but later failed to file a suspicious transaction report , the court heard.
Before handing out the sentence on Tuesday, District Judge Marvin Bay noted that Tan had repeated chances to disclose the suspicious transaction.
The judge added: "Your failure to do your duty as a property agent is liable to impose significant reputational risks on the image of Singapore as an incorrupt and transparent jurisdiction to invest and conduct business in."
The Straits Times had earlier reported that the property purchase transaction was not completed as the remaining sum was left unpaid.
Zhang and 24 others had reportedly been sentenced to between three and 15 years' jail in Beijing over her involvement in financial fraud.