A lawyer who gave false information to tax authorities in a bid to cheat the Government into giving him a payout under the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme was struck off the rolls on Wednesday.
Sole proprietor Kangatharan Ramoo Kandavellu "demonstrated a fundamental disregard for the law and a severe lack of integrity", said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon when he delivered the decision of the Court of Three Judges, which can suspend and disbar lawyers.
Mr Kangatharan, 56, was fined $4,500 and ordered to pay a penalty of $49,212 last year, after he admitted he made false declarations to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) in 2014, in a bid to abuse the PIC scheme.
With the help of a PIC "promoter", he falsely declared in the application form that his son and sister were local employees of his firm Kanga & Co even though they were not working there. He also falsely stated his firm incurred an expenditure of $16,010. Iras detected the false information and no payout was made. Had he succeeded, Mr Kangatharan would have received $24,606.
The Law Society then applied to the Court of Three Judges to punish Mr Kangatharan by invoking a provision in the Legal Profession Act that requires the Society to do so when a lawyer has been convicted of an offence "involving fraud or dishonesty".
A legal question, however, arose on whether the provision can be invoked in this case. This was because Mr Kangatharan was convicted of giving false information under the Income Tax Act, an offence that does not refer to fraud or dishonesty.
On Wednesday,The Law Society's counsel, Mr Colin Liew, argued that the court should adopt a broad interpretation of the provision.
He said the provision can be invoked as long as the lawyer has committed the offence in a fraudulent or dishonest manner, even if fraud or dishonesty are not necessarily an element of the offence. Mr Liew said it was clear Mr Kangatharan had taken part in a scam to defraud the Government, and that he had deliberately made false statements to deceive Iras into paying his firm money to which it was not entitled.
The court agreed. There was "no doubt" Mr Kangatharan had acted dishonestly and that he had connived with others to defraud the Government by abusing the PIC scheme, said the court, which also comprised Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Steven Chong.
Mr Kangatharan, who had not renewed his practising certificate since 2015, was not in court. He had submitted a letter to the court asking for a suspension.