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Author Topic: Leong Lai Yee: $60m Ponzi scam mastermind  (Read 2739 times)

Offline greentara

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Leong Lai Yee: $60m Ponzi scam mastermind
« on: May 24, 2015, 10:18:42 PM »
Investors caught in '$60m ponzi scam'
Published on May 24, 2015 12:00 PM
By Joanna Seow

It started out as a sweet deal involving the buying and selling of properties in Singapore's choicest districts, promising around 30 per cent returns.

Now, around 60 investors have come forward to claim they have been duped in what could be a multi-million-dollar ponzi scam.

The investors said the alleged mastermind behind the elaborate scheme, Ms Leong Lai Yee, owes investors more than $60 million in capital alone.


They also told The Sunday Times that the woman, who is in her 50s, cut off contact with them last weekend, but not before telling them that their money was gone and she wanted to take her own life.

At least 10 investors have lodged police reports. The police said in response to queries: "It is inappropriate to comment on investigations."

The scheme may have started unravelling only last year, but it has been going on some 15 years.

Through the period, Ms Leong allegedly hooked more than 100 investors with her promise of a virtually no-risk programme.

On the "advice" of a banker, she would buy distressed properties in Orchard, Tanglin and Newton, which are on the verge of being repossessed by banks, and sell them to buyers in China for a profit.

Investors who pumped in money to fund the purchase of these distressed properties were promised returns ranging from 10 per cent to 48 per cent over a period of four to eight months, they said.

They were also told that the eventual buyers would place a 40 per cent downpayment on the property, which would be forfeited if these buyers backed out. This would be enough to pay the profits promised to investors.

The Sunday Times was shown business agreements between investors and Ms Leong guaranteeing their capital and pro-rated profit. The money which investors pumped in ranged from $10,000 to more than $2 million.

Those who referred friends were also given a cut, which could be anywhere from 1 per cent to as much as half of the new funds.

One investor, who gave her name only as Madam J. Tan, said Ms Leong claimed to be marketing high-end condominiums in Singapore's Districts 9, 10 and 11, although there were never any documents to prove this.

"We just trusted her because of the testimonies of those who knew her for a long time," said the 50-year-old, who put in $1 million and introduced several friends to the programme.

Among the investors were retirees and housewives like Madam Tan.

She said Ms Leong had urged people to withdraw their Central Provident Fund savings, borrow from their insurance policies or take a second mortgage on their properties to free up cash to invest.

Several investors were with the scheme for over 10 years, while the latest joined just last month.

Ms Leong, who was known to friends as Adeline, built up trust and goodwill over the years, even inviting investors over for Chinese New Year parties at her well-decorated semi-detached house in Tanah Merah.

"She is someone who sits down together with you, laughs, goes for dinner, holidays in Thailand and Hong Kong together with you. Will you suspect anything?" said a 58-year-old businessman who gave his name only as Mr S. Goh.

He had gotten to know Ms Leong in 2001, and together with friends and relatives poured more than $2 million into the scheme. He also put returns and referral fees back in as investments.

"There were never any problems. There were even people who pulled out early and got their capital and pro-rated returns back," he said, explaining why no alarm bells went off for so many years.

It appeared to be only in the past few years that things started going wrong and Ms Leong tried to raise more funds by offering higher returns of 35 per cent for a six-month contract.

This bears the hallmark of a ponzi scheme, in which fresh funds from new investors are used to pay those who joined earlier.

Last September, several investors received a text message from Ms Leong saying she would pay them only in December, but with additional interest.

A week later, she postponed payment to March 9. She told investors then she was trying to negotiate a $70 million deal that would allow her to repay everyone.

When March 9 came, payments were pushed to May 18.

Four days before the deadline, investors were asked for their addresses so they could be sent invoices. But instead of invoices, some of them later received a letter from Ms Leong in which she said she would kill herself.

She and her husband have been uncontactable since, investors said. Attempts by The Sunday Times to call her were unsuccessful.

Ms Chan Shwe Ching, an investor, began legal proceedings against Ms Leong last month. Her lawyer Michael Chia said the courts have allowed an injunction to freeze Ms Leong's assets within Singapore.

Ms Alina Sim, who is still Ms Leong's lawyer on record, said she was not at liberty to discuss the case.

Around 30 people have also hired a lawyer to launch a civil suit against Ms Leong, said an investor who gave his name as Mr Ong.

Mr Goh said he had dinner with Ms Leong just last month. Now, he and the other investors are hoping her family and the public will help to locate her.

"This is not a Korean drama, it is real," he said ruefully. "There are real people, real families involved."

Source: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/courts-crime/story/investors-caught-60m-ponzi-scam-20150524

Offline greentara

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Re: Leong Lai Yee: $60m Ponzi scam mastermind
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2019, 12:12:29 PM »
Housewife who ran 'unprecedented' $35m ponzi scheme jailed for 14 years
Shaffiq Alkhatib | May 18, 2019

SINGAPORE - A housewife who ran a ponzi scheme from 2010 to 2015 and cheated 53 people of more than $35 million in total was jailed for 14 years.

Leong Lai Yee duped her victims into believing that she would use the funds they had invested to buy "distressed properties" and sell them for a profit.

A distressed property is usually the result of a home owner who is unable to keep up with its mortgage. Such properties are commonly sold below the market value.

The court heard that Leong, 55, also told her victims that she would use their investments to fund start-ups and reap "lucrative monthly returns". However, she did not use her victims' funds for their intended purposes.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenneth Chin said: "In reality, Leong would use the monies collected from more recent victims to pay off her earlier victims, while enjoying her criminal proceeds in the meantime."

She was sentenced on Friday (May 17) to 14 years' jail after pleading guilty to 50 cheating charges and one count of dealing with the benefits of her criminal activities. Another 806 charges were considered during sentencing.

The Straits Times understands that Leong used to be a real estate agent, but she was no longer one when she committed the offences.

From January 2010 and May 2015, she told her victims that she was buying distressed properties in Singapore's prime districts from sellers on the brink of bankruptcy.

She also told her victims that she had been dealing with investments involving such properties for many years and claimed she had "insider knowledge" due to her purported connections with a banker and a lawyer.

DPP Chin said: "The accused told the victims that their funds would be used to purchase such properties. In addition, the accused told the victims that she would resell these properties to her ready pool of foreign buyers, who were keen to invest in Singapore properties, at higher prices. The difference between the prices would therefore constitute the profits earned by the victims."

In 2014, she ran another ruse in which some of her victims were told that she was funding start-ups.
Read also
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Ex-property agent jailed for defrauding clients and cheating own family in kidnapping scam

She then invited them to invest money with her, promising monthly returns of 7 per cent to 9 per cent.

In her ponzi scheme, she encouraged her victims to increase their investments with her. She also encouraged them to refer others to her purported money-making ventures.

The DPP added: "Hence, some investors introduced their relatives and friends to participate in the accused's Ponzi scheme. The accused also convinced some victims to pawn their gold items or withdraw their CPF funds in order to invest with her."

The amount cheated in Leong's case is unprecedented, said the DPP.

In 2015, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) received police reports lodged by complainants against Leong.

But she left for Thailand on May 15 that year, before the CAD started its investigation into her case.

The court heard she later ran out of money and surrendered herself at the Singapore embassy in Bangkok on Nov 2, 2017. She was arrested when she returned to Singapore two days later.

Leong has been an undischarged bankrupt since April 21, 2016 and many of the victims were her close friends.

DPP Ling said that she had used her ill-gotten gains money for her own expenses such as mortgage loan repayments and family expenses.

Her offences came to light when she began delaying payments by late 2014. She told the victims that she would refund all outstanding payments by May 18, 2015.

Leong could not fully repay them and decided to leave Singapore.

On Friday, DPP Chin urged District Judge Hamidah Ibrahim to sentence Leong to at least 14 to 15 years' jail, stressing that she had made no restitution.

Defence lawyer Tito Issac, however, pleaded for his client to be given between eight and nine years' jail. He also told the judge that Leong was "immensely remorseful".

For each count of cheating, she could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

Source: https://www.asiaone.com/singapore/housewife-who-ran-unprecedented-35m-ponzi-scheme-jailed-14-years

Offline greentara

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Re: Leong Lai Yee: $60m Ponzi scam mastermind
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2019, 12:18:27 PM »
Chan Shwe Ching v Leong Lai Yee [2015] SGHC 210
Case Number : HC/Suit No 342 of 2015 (HC/Summons No 3087 of 2015)
Decision Date : 12 August 2015
Tribunal/Court : High Court
Coram : Edmund Leow JC
Counsel Name(s) : Chia Soo Michael and Hany Soh Hui Bin (Chia-Thomas Law Chambers LLC) for the
plaintiff.
Parties : Chan Shwe Ching — Leong Lai Yee
Civil Procedure—judgments and orders—enforcement

Credit and security – remedies – writs of seizure and sale
12 August 2015

Edmund Leow JC:

Introduction
1 This application was filed by the plaintiff for the defendant’s interest in the property at 9 Jalan
Tanah Rata, Singapore (“the Property”) to be attached and taken in execution to satisfy the
judgment in Summons No 2470 of 2015 (“SUM 2470/2015”) and the costs order in Summons No 2813
of 2015 (“SUM 2813/2015”) (referred to as “the Judgment Debt”). The Property is held by the
defendant and her husband as joint tenants. After hearing the ex parte application and perusing the
submissions, I allowed the application on 10 July 2015. As important questions concerning the
enforceability of a writ of seizure and sale (“WSS”) on an immovable property held by joint tenants
arose in the present case, I now give my reasons for allowing the application.

Facts
2 The plaintiff commenced proceedings against the defendant on 10 April 2015 for payment of
the sum of approximately $1.43m. By May 2015, the defendant was reported missing and numerous
police reports had been lodged by up to 60 investors claiming that she owed them about $60m. The
defendant has since been uncontactable. The plaintiff obtained summary judgment against the
defendant on 22 May 2015 for the sum of approximately $1.43m by way of SUM 2470/2015. The
defendant was also ordered to pay the plaintiff costs fixed at $22,000 with reasonable disbursements.
The plaintiff has since provided the court with a list of disbursements incurred amounting to
$6,052.10. The plaintiff also applied by way of SUM 2813/2015 to appoint a receiver over the
Property. On 23 June 2015, the court granted her application for the appointment of a receiver and
awarded her costs in the sum of $1,500.

3 Unfortunately, the appointment of a receiver as a method of enforcing the Judgment Debt did
not assist the plaintiff in this case, as there was no rent to receive in respect of the Property.
Without a WSS, the plaintiff could not force a sale and was left without any satisfactory remedy for
the enforcement of the Judgment Debt. Further, in the event that the defendant is declared to be
bankrupt, the plaintiff will lose her priority over the Property to the Official Assignee pursuant to s
105(1) of the Bankruptcy Act (Cap 20, 2009 Rev Ed) given that no execution against the Property by
way of a WSS has been completed. The total sum due to the plaintiff under the Judgment Debt of
about $1.47m remains unpaid to this date.

4 The plaintiff then commenced the present action, for the interest of the defendant in the
Property to attach and be taken in execution to satisfy the Judgment Debt.

The plaintiff’s arguments
5 Counsel for the plaintiff submits that Malayan Banking Bhd v Focal Finance Ltd [1998] 3 SLR(R)
1008 (“Malayan Banking”) should not be followed as it has “produced an inequitable result in this
case”. In particular, he makes the following arguments in support of the proposition that a WSS
should be granted in this case:
(a) There is no need for severance of a joint tenancy to occur prior to a WSS being able to
attach to the interest of a judgment debtor in a property held in joint tenancy.
(b) There is no prejudice to the third party (ie, the “innocent” joint tenant).
(c) The position in Singapore under Malayan Banking in relation to WSS of an immovable
property held in the manner of joint tenants is at odds with the position in other Commonwealth
jurisdictions.

6 I will address each of the arguments in turn, but will first consider the arguments and reasons
given for the decision in Malayan Banking.

The current state of the law as per Malayan Banking
7 The facts in Malayan Banking concern two writs of seizure and sale which had been registered
against a property held by joint tenants. The first WSS was registered only against the husband’s
interest in the property by Focal Finance Ltd. The second WSS was registered against the property
as a whole by Malayan Banking Bhd. The issue before the High Court was how the surplus from the
sale proceeds of the property should be apportioned between the respective parties. The High Court
held that a WSS against immovable property could not be used to enforce a judgment against a
debtor who was one of two or more joint tenants of that property (at [24]). The registration of the
first WSS was thus declared to be invalid and was set aside, and the surplus from the sale proceeds
were ordered to be paid to Malayan Banking Bhd. The court reasoned (at [15]) that:
... Although joint tenancy in immovable property is an interest recognised in law, the “interest of
the judgment debtor” attachable under a WSS under O 47 r 4(1)(a) must surely be a distinct and
identifiable one. A joint tenant has no distinct and identifiable share in land for as long as the
joint tenancy subsists. To seize one joint tenant’s interest is to seize also the interest of his coowners
when they are not subject to the judgment which is being enforced. ...
[emphasis added]

8 This forms the fundamental premise of the court’s reasoning and very materially shapes the
scope of the court’s subsequent inquiry. Hence, the focus of the inquiry shifted to whether the
registration of a WSS severs the joint tenancy, rather than whether the interest of a judgment debtor
is attachable to a WSS in the first place. As the registration of a WSS did not sever a joint tenancy,
the court concluded that the interest of a joint tenant could not be the subject of a WSS as the
interest was neither “distinct” nor “identifiable”. The court was of the view that a judgment creditor
could proceed against a judgment debtor (who is a joint tenant of land) by the appointment of a
receiver by way of equitable execution (under O 30 and O 51 of the Rules of Court (Cap 322, R 5,
2014 Rev Ed) (“the Rules”)) instead (at [23]).

9 In my view, the court correctly rejected the argument that a WSS severs a joint tenancy at
the time of registration. After all, it is difficult to see what would constitute an “act operating on the
joint tenant’s own share” at the time the WSS is registered by the judgment creditor who is not a
party to the joint tenancy. But it does not necessarily follow that a joint tenant’s interest is therefore
incapable of being identified and seized under a WSS. Further, the appointment of a receiver as an
alternative method of enforcing a judgment debt does not appear to be a satisfactory one. The
appointment of a receiver merely entitles the judgment creditor to rental and profits from the property
and is ultimately a very different remedy from the execution of a WSS. I will now turn to the
preliminary question of whether the interest of a judgment debtor in a joint tenancy can attach to a
WSS, which is a separate question from the question of when severance of a joint tenancy occurs.
WSS of a joint tenant’s interest in property

10 On the face of the wording of O 47 r 4 of the Rules, WSS on immovable property can be carried
out on “any interest therein” (emphasis added), which would presumably include the interest of a joint
tenant. There appears to be nothing in the wording of the Rules which would support a restrictive
interpretation of the type of interest in immovable property which can attach to a WSS.
The requirement of a “distinct and identifiable” interest in land

11 In fact, the requirement that an interest in land has to be “distinct and identifiable” for a WSS
to seize such an interest, and that to be distinct and identifiable, a share in the land has to be a
separate and undivided one, appeared for the first time in Malayan Banking at [15]. There is a notable
absence of any citation of supporting authority for this proposition in Malayan Banking. There is also
no mention of such a requirement in the academic writing that existed at the time of the decision in
Malayan Banking on the availability of a WSS in respect of immovable property (see eg, Jeffrey
Pinsler, Civil Procedure (Butterworths Asia, 1994) at pp 939–941). The absence of any discussion on
the type of interest in land which can be subject to a WSS suggests that traditionally, there was no
need for a distinction to be drawn between the types of co-ownership in this context, and at the
very least suggests that a WSS was available in respect of a judgment debtor’s interest in an
immovable property held in joint tenancy. Professor Tan Sook Yee (“Professor Tan”) further states in
Tan Sook Yee, Tang Hang Wu & Kelvin FK Low, Tan Sook Yee’s Principles of Singapore Land Law
(LexisNexis, 2010) (“Principles (2010)”) at para 9.42 that “ntil Malayan Banking Bhd v Focal Finance
Ltd, it was accepted that the interest of a joint tenant can be subject to a writ of seizure and sale”.
Upon careful consideration of the above, I am of the view that prior to Malayan Banking, severance of
a joint tenancy into undivided shares was not a prerequisite for a WSS to be issued against a joint
tenant’s interest in land.

12 The concept of joint tenancy is admittedly a somewhat strange legal creation. Every joint
tenant in a joint tenancy arrangement is entitled to the whole of the property. This may give the
impression that a joint tenant’s share of the property is one that is incapable of being determined. But
the plaintiff cites Tan Sook Yee, “Execution Against Co-owned Property” [2000] SJLS 52 (“Tan
(2000)”) in this regard to argue that even though a joint tenant does not have an undivided share of
the land for as long as the joint tenancy subsists, the joint tenant has an interest in land which is
identifiable and capable of being determined. Professor Tan explains (at p 57) that this is because the
interest of a joint tenant can be converted into undivided shares by alienation, and “for [the]
purposes of alienation each is conceived as entitled to dispose of an aliquot share” (per Dixon J in
Wright v Gibbons (1949) 78 CLR 313). When the property is sold for example, the joint tenants will be
entitled to the sale proceeds according to their interest in the property and their exact “share” of the
property can be grasped. The joint tenants are usually entitled to the proceeds equally unless they
are holding the property on trust for themselves as tenants-in-common in undivided and unequal
shares, perhaps proportionate to their contribution.

13 I am of the view that this reasoning is logical and compelling. In fact, there are many instances
before the court in which it has to determine what a joint tenant should be entitled to out of the sale
proceeds of a property, based on his interest in the said property. These include applications under s
18(2) of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Cap 322, 2007 Rev Ed) (“the SCJA”) read with para 2
of the First Schedule thereto, which allows a co-owner to apply to the High Court for an order of the
sale of the property “where it appears necessary or expedient”. In these cases, the court similarly
has to determine how the net sale proceeds should be divided amongst the co-owners after a sale,
and very often in the context of joint tenancy arrangements (see eg, Neo Hui Ling v Ang Ah Sew
[2010] SGHC 328 and Gurnam Kaur d/o Sardara Singh v Harbhajan Singh s/o Jagraj Singh (alias
Harbhajan Singh s/o Jogaraj Singh) [2004] 4 SLR(R) 420). This can also happen even after a sale has
been ordered, and the court has to declare each joint tenant’s beneficial interest in the property to
apportion the sale proceeds (see eg, Lim Geok Swan v Lim Shook Luan [2012] SGHC 18). Thus, if the
interest of a joint tenant in land is one that is capable of being alienated and identified, and it is
commonly accepted that severance of a joint tenancy will occur when the sheriff sells the land
pursuant to a WSS, there is no reason why a WSS cannot be issued against a joint tenant’s interest
in land.

14 In any event, the challenge of having to particularise the exact interest that the judgment
creditor is entitled to similarly arises in the appointment of a receiver, which was the alternative
method of enforcing a judgment debt suggested in Malayan Banking. As Professor Tan rightly points
out in Tan (2000) at p 57, even if a receiver were to be appointed, the receiver cannot receive more
rent and profit than what the joint tenant is entitled to, and hence his exact “share” of the joint
tenancy has to be determined. It is difficult to see why the situation involving a WSS of a joint
tenant’s interest in the property should be any different. It is the same interest in an immovable
property that has to be quantified in both scenarios, merely that the scenarios relate to two different
methods of enforcement of a judgment debt.

The practice in other Commonwealth jurisdictions
15 Case law seems to indicate that the courts in other Commonwealth jurisdictions do not even
consider the question of whether a WSS (or its equivalent) can be carried out on a joint tenant’s
interest in land, and assume that it can be done. The courts in other jurisdictions proceed on the
assumption that an interest of a joint tenant can be taken in execution under a writ of execution over
land, and focus on the priority between different creditors, the effect of the registration of a writ of
execution on severance, and other related issues instead. For example, in The Registrar-General of
New South Wales v Wood (1926) 39 CLR 46, a wife’s interest in land held in tenancy in entireties (a
special form of joint tenancy between husbands and wives) was seized and sold by a sheriff under a
writ of fieri facias (the equivalent of the WSS in Singapore). The High Court of Australia held that the
Registrar General was bound to register the transfer of the wife’s interest by the sheriff, pursuant to
a sale carried out by him under the writ of fieri facias issued only against the wife’s interest in land. In
Mitrovic v Koren [1971] VR 479, the Supreme Court of Victoria held that a judgment debtor who had
a writ of fieri facias executed against his interest in a joint tenancy was required to yield possession
or control of his duplicate certificate of title. In both cases, there was no question or doubt over
whether the writ of execution over a joint tenant’s interest in the property could be carried out.

16 Similarly, the Canadian courts have considered whether the writ of fieri facias against the
interest of a joint tenant resulted in a severance of the joint tenancy and if so, at what point in time
the severance occurred. But they have no difficulty accepting that the interest can be subject to a
writ in the first place (see eg, Re Young [1968] 70 DLR (2d) 594, Power v Grace [1932] 2 DLR 793
(“Power v Grace”)). It seems uncontroversial to them that this can be done, and this supports
Professor Tan’s views. Further, s 9 of the Execution Act (RSO 1990, Chapter E.24) makes it clear that
under Canadian law, there is no distinction drawn between a writ of execution over land held in joint
tenancy and land held in tenancy-in-common. The section reads:
Sheriff may sell any lands of execution debtor
9. (1) The sheriff to whom a writ of execution against lands is delivered for execution may seize
and sell thereunder the lands of the execution debtor, including any lands whereof any other
person is seized or possessed in trust for the execution debtor and including any interest of the
execution debtor in lands held in joint tenancy.
[emphasis added]
At this point, I note that the High Court in Malayan Banking had focussed on the legal position in
Canada in coming to its conclusion that the registration of a WSS does not sever a joint tenancy
arrangement. I concur with this reading of the Canadian cases that the delivery of a writ of execution
to the sheriff does not in itself amount to a severance. But as stated above, it does not necessarily
mean that a WSS cannot attach to the interest of a joint tenant at the first instance. In fact, in the
context of a charging order, the Supreme Court of Canada has also expressly recognised that the
interest of a joint tenant is “exigible” and hence can be subject to a charging order (Maroukis v
Maroukis [1984] 2 SCR 137 at 142). In Singapore, prior to 1991, a charging order was available as a
statutory charge that could be lodged over a property pursuant to a judgment debt, and was capable
of protection by a caveat. Though the workings of the WSS and the charging order may differ in some
respects, there is no indication that the amendments in 1991 to the Rules of the Supreme Court 1970
(S 274/1970) were intended to remove the remedy of a WSS for a judgment creditor in the context of
a joint tenancy. There are also similarities between the WSS and the charging order as they are both
methods of levying execution over land and only take in execution the beneficial interest of the
judgment debtor. If the interest of the judgment debtor in a joint tenancy could be the subject of a
charging order before 1991, there is no reason why that same interest cannot be capable of forming
the subject of a WSS today.

Severance of the joint tenancy in the context of a WSS
17 For completeness, I will now address the question of when severance of a joint tenancy can
occur in the context of a WSS. It is uncontroversial that at the time the land is sold, there will be a
severance of the joint tenancy (see Principles (2010) at para 9.42). But it is less clear whether
severance can occur before the sale. Given that the registration of a WSS may be cancelled because
it is subsequently withdrawn or lapses, the court in Malayan Banking held that the registration of a
WSS does not sever a joint tenancy (at [17] and [18] of Malayan Banking). It was of the opinion that
a “fine mess” would be created if that were so, because the status of the joint tenancy arrangement
following the withdrawal of the WSS would be highly uncertain – would the position of the co-owners
in relation to one another revert to being joint tenants again? Further, it stated that the registration
of a WSS merely prevents transfers of interest by the joint tenant before the sheriff transfers that
interest to another person, and thus registration in and of itself does not sever the joint tenancy.

18 Professor Tan acknowledged in Principles (2010) (at para 9.43) that a writ of execution over
the interest of a joint tenant does not vest any interest in land in the judgment creditor, and so it
does not effect a severance. But she also highlighted certain anomalies which may arise when we
reject the notion that severance can occur at registration. For example, if the joint tenancy has not
yet been severed, and if the judgment debtor were to die before the sheriff sells it, the right of
survivorship would operate. What would happen then to the writ of execution? Would it continue to
bind the land or would it be ineffective as the interest of the judgment debtor has disappeared on his
death? These problems may be avoided if the notion of an “act operating on his own share” is given
an expansive definition to include the deliberate act of a third party as allowed by the law. The
registration of a WSS would then fall within such a definition and effect a severance of the joint
tenancy.

19 It is interesting to note that the Canadian courts have adopted an intermediate approach. They
have long stated that the mere registration of a writ of fieri facias does not sever a joint tenancy and
that the judgment creditor needs to take sufficient steps to execute the judgment against the
debtor’s interest in the property (see eg, Power v Grace and Toronto-Dominion Bank v Phillips (2014)
ONCA 613). If, for example, the advertisement of the upcoming sale of the debtor’s interest in the
property has commenced, this could constitute sufficient steps to sever the joint tenancy. This
seems to me a possible approach to take. But given that each case turns on its own facts, and that
this question is not directly relevant to the present case, I am of the view that this question would
be more appropriately addressed in future cases.

20 For the purposes of the present case, the relevant question to be asked when a WSS attaches
to an interest in land should not be whether severance of the joint tenancy has occurred or will
immediately occur, but whether severance can occur in the future. Given that it is accepted that
when a sheriff decides to sell the land under a WSS severance of a joint tenancy will occur if it has
not already occurred, and that the interest of a joint tenant can be determined when severance
occurs, there is no reason why a WSS cannot be issued against a joint tenant’s interest in land.

Prejudice to the co-owner
21 In Malayan Banking, the court also expressed concern that the joint tenant who does not owe
a judgment debt may be forced to sell his share of the property when the WSS is executed, and this
may result in unfairness. But it should be clarified that when a joint tenant’s interest in the property is
seized under a WSS, this has no bearing on another joint tenant’s interest in that same property as
the judgment creditor only takes what the judgment debtor is entitled to, and nothing more. In the
event of a sale of the property, the sheriff can only market the judgment debtor’s share of the
property and has to give notice to the other party prior to doing so.

22 But given that the sheriff may apply to the court for directions under O 47 r 5(g) of the Rules,
it is recognised that a sale of the whole property may still be ordered, in spite of the objections of a
co-owner of the property. It may seem to some that the “innocent” joint tenant, who does not wish
to sell his property, is “forced” to sell his interest in the property. But the risk of unfairness is inherent
in any form of co-ownership (see Tan (2000) at p 58) and is not confined to the context of WSS of a
property held by joint tenants. The situation would be very similar in cases involving the WSS of an
immovable property held as tenants-in-common and its subsequent sale. The court even has the
power to order the sale of a property in cases which do not involve the enforcement of a judgment
debt, even if it means overriding the consent of a co-owner as long as the court deems it “necessary
or expedient” to order a sale of the whole property (see s 18(2) read with para 2 of the First
Schedule of the SCJA).

23 Such “unfairness” is thus not peculiar to a case in which a WSS is registered over a judgment
debtor’s interest in a property held in joint tenancy, and courts should hesitate to treat judgment
debtors differently based on the type of co-ownership by which their property is held. From the point
of view of the judgment creditor, why should he be prejudiced in the enforcement of a judgment debt
merely because his debtor is a joint tenant and not a tenant-in-common? The perceived “unfairness”
to the co-owner of the property must also be balanced against the “unfairness” to a judgment
creditor in a similar case as the one before us. Without a WSS in the present case, the plaintiff would
be left without any remedy and will have no means of enforcing the Judgment Debt of about $1.47m.
I find no reason to maintain a distinction between the two types of co-ownership and in fact, there
are clear policy reasons against such a distinction. After all, it would be altogether too easy for a
judgment debtor to prevent execution of a judgment debt over his property by refusing to sever a
joint tenancy. The interest of a judgment debtor in both forms of co-ownership should thus be liable
to be seized under a WSS.

Clarifying nomenclature
24 Section 105(1) of the Bankruptcy Act establishes that between the judgment creditor who has
issued execution against the property of a bankrupt, and the Official Assignee, the Official Assignee
takes priority unless the execution or attachment has been completed before the issuance of the
bankruptcy order. The plaintiff has asked for the court’s clarification on the nomenclature used in O
47 r 4(1)(a) of the Rules in comparison with s 105(2)(c) of the Bankruptcy Act. The former states:
Immovable property (O. 47, r. 4)
4.—(1) …
(a) seizure shall be effected by registering under any written law relating to the immovable
property an order of Court in Form 96 (which for the purpose of this Rule and Rule 5 shall be
called the order) attaching the interest of the judgment debtor in the immovable property
described therein and, upon registration, such interest shall be deemed to be seized by the
Sheriff;
[emphasis added]
The latter states:
Restriction of rights of creditors under execution or attachment
105. …
(2) …
(c) … an execution against land or any interest therein is completed by registering under any
written law relating to the registration of land a writ of seizure and sale attaching the
interest of the bankrupt in the land described therein.
[emphasis added]
The plaintiff argues that though there is a difference in nomenclature, both provisions are referring to
the same document.

25 I would first point out that O 47 r 4(1)(e)(i) actually makes reference to a writ of seizure and
sale in Form 83, which is a separate document from the order of Court, and is to be filed after
registering the order of Court. There is a clear procedure that can be discerned from the current O 47
r 4: an order of Court is first obtained under Form 96 and registered, and thereafter the judgment
creditor must file a writ of seizure and sale in Form 83. The question thus becomes this: is s 105(1) of
the Bankruptcy Act referring to the current Form 96 or Form 83?

26 In comparing the recently amended O 47 r 4(1)(a) of the Rules with s 105(2)(c) of the
Bankruptcy Act, the similarity is that both are concerned with the registration of a particular
document which will attach the interest of the judgment debtor described therein. Thus, the key
point in time we are looking at is the time at which the execution or attachment of the judgment debt
to the judgment debtor’s interest in the property occurs, which amounts to a completed execution
against land and would take priority over the Official Assignee. O 47 r 4(1)(a) clearly states that the
interest of the judgment debtor attaches at the time of registration of the order of Court and such
interest shall be deemed to be seized by the sheriff. Thus, I am of the view that the order of Court in
O 47 r 4(1)(a) (ie, the document in Form 96) is the same document as the writ of seizure and sale in
s 105(2)(c) of the Bankruptcy Act for the purposes of s 105(1) of the said Act. Perhaps some
deliberation on the wording of the relevant sections of the Bankruptcy Act in future amendments may
be helpful to avoid uncertainty in the law in the area of the enforcement of judgment debts of
bankrupts.

Conclusion
27 Therefore, for the reasons given above, I allowed the ex parte application for the interest of
the Defendant in the property to be attached and taken in execution to satisfy the Judgment Debt. I
also awarded costs of $5,000 to the plaintiff.

Source: https://www.singaporelawwatch.sg/Portals/0/Docs/Judgments/[2015]%20SGHC%20210.pdf