A magician was charged in court yesterday with multiple counts of helping others to fraudulently obtain Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) cash payouts and bonuses amounting to $1.1 million.
This is the biggest case involving an alleged PIC promoter to date.
S. Chandran, 35, owner of Paradize Consultancy, faces 58 charges under the Income Tax Act.
He is accused of intentionally assisting 49 claimants to obtain cash payouts under the PIC scheme. The alleged offences occurred between June 2013 and November 2014.
The former IT instructor quit his job in 2008 to pursue his dream of being a magician, and became famous after winning the Best Variety Entertainer award by the United States-based International Magicians Society in 2014.
Local Merlin with an international accolade
Local magician S. Chandran, 35, made headlines in 2014 when he won the International Magicians Society's Merlin Award, a prestigious accolade given to other well-known names such as David Copperfield and Criss Angel.
Chandran was named the Best Variety Entertainer, a title created just for him.
In a report about his win, he told The New Paper then that he had carved out a niche because he had a variety of characters in his performances, providing his customers with many options.
But the same report also highlighted the award's controversial side, noting that new titles were created on a seemingly ad hoc basis. According to other reports, Chandran had previously worked in the Republic of Singapore Air Force and also as an IT instructor.
In 2008, he embarked on his career to become a magician, and he also earned a doctorate in magic studies from the United States.
Chandran is said to be a sought-after magician, with a wide repertoire of skills which include fire eating, ventriloquism, disappearing acts and levitating.
The PIC scheme is meant for qualified businesses with real productivity-enhancing investments.
It offers tax deductions or cash payouts to companies that invest in areas such as staff training, information technology or automation equipment to boost productivity.
In a statement, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) said that over the past year, it has conducted extensive investigations into a number of suspicious PIC claims and called up about about 200 people.
Many of the suspicious claims were allegedly linked to Chandran.
Iras tax prosecutor Elisa Soh Hui said $851,634 out of the $1.1 million claimed was disbursed by Iras.
She alleged that Chandran acted as a PIC broker and received about $400,000 from the payouts.
If convicted, he could be fined up to $50,000 and/or jailed for up to five years per charge. He also faces a mandatory penalty of four times the amount of cash payout or PIC bonus. This translates to a penalty of $4.39 million.
Ms Soh asked for bail to be set at $200,000, saying Chandran was likely to abscond otherwise.
Asked by District Judge Adam Nakhoda if any of the claimants had been dealt with, Ms Soh said the first case has been fixed for next month.
Chandran's lawyer T. M. Sinnadurai said his client is not a flight risk. The magician has an ongoing project - a performance at Kallang Theatre - from Feb 17 to 19.
The counsel said bail of $50,000 would suffice.
Judge Nakhoda agreed with the prosecutor that bail should be set at a high sum in view of the serious charges and the likelihood of a long sentence plus a substantial penalty.
Bail was set at $200,000.
Chandran's case will be mentioned next Friday.