Magician accused of tax scam fails to turn up in court, prosecution calls it 'disappearing act'

Wan Ting Koh
A screenshot of S Chandran's website where he advertises services as a magician.

SINGAPORE — A magician who is on trial for making fraudulent claims to the taxman failed to turn up for his scheduled court hearing on Tuesday (8 October), prompting the prosecution to call his absence “a disappearing act”.

S Chandran, 38, did not appear three days into his cross-examination by the prosecution. Instead, the court was told that he had called an ambulance and was conveyed to Changi General Hospital on Tuesday morning.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Sanjiv Vaswani told the court, “We find ourselves in the unenviable position that the accused is not present in court. It appears the magician has performed a disappearing act.”

Chandran, who is listed as an award-winning magician in his website, is accused of submitting more than $70,000 in false Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) claims to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS).

The Singaporean was first charged in January 2017 with defrauding IRAS. He is accused of running a business, Paradize Consultancy, which purportedly helped businesses to obtain grants from IRAS under the PIC scheme. Under the scheme, qualified firms can obtain tax deductions on specific expenditure incurred, such as for IT equipment. Firms can convert up to $100,000 of such expenditure each year into a cash payout from IRAS.

Chandran and his company are accused of defrauding IRAS by purportedly selling software and providing training to companies applying for PIC grants, when they did not do so.

Since he first appeared in court in 2017, Chandran, who also used to run a website on male sexual health, has flip-flopped in his defence and discharged two lawyers. He is now unrepresented.

After Chandran failed to show up in court on Tuesday morning, proceedings were stood down to 2.30pm. However, the magician still did not show up as scheduled.

IRAS prosecutor Norman Teo told the court that Chandran had replied that he was unable to attend court as he was still collecting his medication and settling administrative issues with the hospital. The nature of his medical checkup was not revealed in court.

The investigation officer had visited the hospital but was unable to locate Chandran, who was discharged “much earlier”, the prosecutor added.

District Judge Kessler Soh then adjourned proceedings and ordered to have Chandran attend court on Wednesday morning.

Flip-flopped during hearing

The magician initially claimed trial to his charges on 26 March last year but threw in the towel during cross examination. He pleaded guilty to his charges on 23 November last year.

Chandran later changed his mind and indicated his desire to retract his guilty plea on 11 February this year, the day he was slated to be sentenced. He claimed the statement of facts that was read out to him was not what he had pleaded guilty to. His case was then sent to a pre-trial conference.

On 17 April, Chandran returned to retract his guilty plea. He told the court that he had admitted himself into the Institute of Mental Health to seek medical treatment. His psychiatric condition was not revealed to the court.

Company materials plagiarised: prosecution

When the trial resumed last Friday, Chandran was grilled by the prosecution about the legitimacy of his company’s training material.

The prosecution confronted Chandran over Powerpoint slides that he had claimed ownership to. Chandran listed Paradize Consultancy in the footnotes at the bottom of each slide. However, the footnote appeared different in the last slide as “TQM by Ram, Saurabh, Rishikesh and Chinmaya” instead of Paradize.

The discrepancy prompted DPP Sanjiv to state that Chandran had copied his slides, which were identical to online materials credited to different authors.

Fraudulent claimants

For the trial, the prosecution is proceeding on three counts, which state that Chandran fraudulently represented claimants under the scheme as “qualifying persons” in order to get cash payouts. Another 55 counts of a similar nature were stood down.

The prosecution’s case was that Chandran, as the sole proprietor of Paradize Consultancy, had invited several individuals to file PIC claims in 2014. He listed the claimants as the sole proprietors of three companies. According to the prosecution, the employees listed in the claims were fake.

Chandran had taken steps to coach the claimants in answering queries posed by IRAS during claim assessment, the prosecution said. Chandran also concocted standard answers to “Frequently Asked Questions” in the event that the claimants were audited by IRAS.

Related stories

Consultant admits to submitting over $1 million in fake PIC claims

Lawyer struck off the rolls over role in PIC scam