Woman jailed 2 weeks for buying landed properties for 3 foreigners under her name

Song Fanrong had pleaded guilty earlier to one charge of flouting the Residential Property Act. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A Singaporean woman bought landed properties in Ang Mo Kio under her name for three Chinese nationals despite knowing that the foreigners were not eligible to buy the units.

Song Fanrong, 49, was sentenced to two weeks' jail on Thursday (Jan 13). She had pleaded guilty earlier to one charge of flouting the Residential Property Act, which forbids citizens from buying residential properties on behalf of foreigners.

Two similar charges were taken into consideration for her sentencing.

The court heard that between September and November in 2014, Song acted as a nominee for the three men to buy semi-detached houses in Belgravia Villas, a freehold cluster housing estate.

In name, she was the purchaser, but the funds came from the three men: Mr Wang Chen, Mr Liu Guohui and Chen Xiaopu. Court records show Chen's case is pending.

Song, an undischarged bankrupt, is a naturalised citizen and former pre-school owner.

Under the law, the foreigners would have required government approval to buy the properties.

Those who contravene the law face a fine of up to $100,000, jail of up to three years, or both. Song is subject to the same penalties for her offence.

The court heard that, in the case of Mr Wang, Song recommended the estate to him after learning that he intended to immigrate to Singapore.

Song told Mr Wang that he would not be eligible to buy the property in his own name. She offered to buy it on his behalf and transfer ownership to him once he obtained his Singapore citizenship.

Mr Wang accepted the offer and signed an agreement with Song, which stated that she was merely a trustee and was buying the property on his behalf.

He transferred $1.8 million to Song's bank account in China, and she then paid the sum to the developer as part payment for the $3.48 million unit.

Subsequently, all three sale and purchase agreements were defaulted on when the three men stopped making progressive payments.

The developer, Fairview Developments, deducted the contractual penalties from the sums paid by the foreigners through Song and surrendered the remaining amount of $1.6 million to the authorities.

The rights of all four individuals to the properties were revoked.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Hon Yi sought a month's jail for Song, while defence lawyer Alain Johns asked for a term of less than a month.

DPP Hon, in his written submissions, noted that the Act was enacted to limit speculation by foreigners in the Singapore housing market.

The DPP added that such offences were difficult to detect: The Singapore Land Authority lodged a police report against Song in 2017, at least three years after the offences took place.

Steps were taken to cloak the nominee arrangement: The contracts between Song and the three men were made in China, and she received her funds in that country, he said.

Mr Johns argued that Song did not profit from the purchases and that her only intention was to hold the properties until the men obtained Singapore citizenship.

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