Kanthosamy Rajendran was fined $6,000 for falsely certifying the correctness of a mortgage.
55-year-old Kanthosamy Rajendran, a lawyer, was ordered by the district court on Tuesday (26 July) to pay a fine of $6,000 for falsely certifying that he had witnessed the execution of a mortgage for a home, reported The Straits Times.
Pleading guilty to two charges under the Land Titles Act, he was fined $3,000 for every count.
The court heard that Kanthosamy and his firm, Relianze Law Corporation, was contacted by United Overseas Bank (UOB) on 27 March 2013 to act as their solicitors in the mortgage of a Sunshine Residence unit in Lorong K Telok Kurau.
The bank handed over two letters — one stated that the bank offered Wan Yi Yang a $584,000 housing loan for the property, while the other stated that Wan had allegedly accepted a housing loan and was requesting the law firm to act for him.
On the bank’s instructions, Kanthosamy acted for both the purported mortgagor, Wan, and the mortgagee, UOB, in the conveyancing transaction that was completed on 20 May 2013.
However, Wan made a police report on 1 July 2013 stating that the Inland Tax Revenue Authority sent him a property tax notification informing him of the transfer of the Sunshine Residence home to his name on 21 May; he alleged that he had not bought the property.
Investigations showed that Kanthosamy signed a form on 20 May 2013 certifying the correctness of the Mortgage Instrument, an agreement to fund the purchase of a house, even though he did not witness Wan signing it.
In another form, he also certified the correctness of the Transfer Instrument, a document that is also related to the transfer of the property. Kanthosamy had never met Wan nor did he contact him to ask if he accepted the said transfer.
With this, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Charis Low asked the court to impose a fine of between $3,000 to $4,000 for each charge.
“There is undoubtedly a strong element of public interest in deterring such conduct by solicitors, not only in the context of a breach of professional duties, but in light of the broader need to safeguard the conveyancing regime in Singapore,” said DPP Low.
“The entire system of conveyancing is premised on formal documentation and proper processes. In a typical conveyancing transaction, the solicitor is involved at many stages of the process – conducting a title search, executing the sale and purchase agreement, lodging a caveat, and eventually executing the transfer,” she said.
DPP Low noted that the role of the conveyancing solicitor is especially key as he or she is “entrusted with the fundamental duty of protecting the consumer’s interests by ensuring that the proper procedures are observed throughout the legal conveyancing process”.
As such, falsely certifying to the correctness of instruments is a clear breach of statutory duty, she said, adding that the act “opens up the possibility of fraud, and it severely compromises the integrity of the statutory process that has been devised to render secure such conveyancing transactions”.
Kanthosamy, who could have been fined $5,000 for each charge, is the first person to be prosecuted for falsely certifying the correctness of a document under the Land Titles Act. In 2014, the maximum penalty for this offence was raised to a fine of $25,000.