SINGAPORE - A rogue property agent was jailed for 40 months and fined $240,000 on Friday for doling out unlicensed loans to flat sellers and charging them exorbitant interest rates.
Tan Tee Theng, 40, who is also a shareholder of Mindlink Consultants, had earned at least $123,000 interest from the total loans of $229,000.
He pleaded guilty to six of 29 charges of running an unlicensed moneylending business.
Investigations showed that some time between December 2009 and July 2010, the debtors came to know Tan through the newspaper or flyers, which advertised his professional services in buying and selling residential units.
The four debtors, aged between 57 and 68, then engaged him to act as their real estate agent in the sale of their HDB flats.
During the process of sale, he would ask them whether they needed money in advance, and if so, he could help them by loaning it to them for a fee.
The interest rates of the loan ranged from 10 to 20 per cent a month.
He would disburse the loans to the debtors by issuing cheques and would get repayment on completion when the lawyer disburses the proceeds by deducting the loan amounts directly from the sale proceeds.
The court heard that the debtors each earned less than $1,500 a month.
Tan had two similar convictions in 1996 and 2001.
Pressing for a deterrent sentence, Deputy Public Prosecutor Chee Ee Ling had highlighted aggravating factors.
She said Tan made exorbitant profits at the expense of the borrowers who were vulnerable home owners in desperate need of cash and had resorted to selling their flats to raise funds.
He exploited the professional relationship between a property agent and his client; brought disrepute to the real estate industry; and charged interest rates of up to 240 per cent a year.
As a repeat offender, he could have been fined up to $300,000 and jailed for up to seven years on each charge.