Property agent who failed to report suspicious $23.8M bungalow deal fined $10,000

(PHOTO: Getty Images)

A property agent who failed to report a suspicious deal involving a $23.8 million bungalow in Sentosa Cove that he handled was fined $10,000 on Tuesday (5 June).

Tan Yen Hsi, 37, who was a Senior Marketing Director at CBRE Realty Associates at the time of the offence, pleaded guilty in the State Courts to one charge of failing to disclose to the relevant personnel that money used by a buyer from China for the deal may have been illegally acquired.

The buyer, Zhang Min, was the former president of China-based Yucheng International Holdings Group. She was arrested in China in early 2016 over her role in a $10.8 billion dollar “Ponzi” scheme.

Tan had read news reports of her arrest and informed his superior about it in February 2016. He was told to lodge a suspicious transaction report (STR) but failed to do so.

During investigation, Tan told police officers from the Commercial Affairs Department that he did not file the STR because the paperwork “is a pain to do, and you do not get money out of it”.

Zhang Min had agreed to buy the bungalow a few days after viewing it in October 2015. About $5.5 million was paid in advance for stamp duties and other costs. However, Zhang became uncontactable on 12 January 2016, a day before the deal was supposed to be completed.

Tan’s lawyer, Ashton Tan, said his client did not make any money from the deal.

Online searches by Tan revealed that Zhang’s company was under investigation for fraud in China. By early February, Tan knew about Zhang’s arrest, according to court documents.

Tan had actually prepared a draft of the STR and sent it for vetting to his superior, who suggested some changes. Despite repeated reminders from his superior, Tan failed to file the final STR.

Calling money-laundering a global problem that undermines the stability of financial systems, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Ng Jean Ting asked for at least a $10,000 fine.

In mitigation, Tan’s lawyer, Ashton Tan, asked for a maximum $10,000 fine. Tan’s license has lapsed and he may not be able to renew it over the next two to three years, which would affect his livelihood, the lawyer added.

In sentencing, District Judge Marvin Bay noted that Tan had several chances to submit the report. In failing to do so, Tan had caused “significant reputational risk on the image of Singapore as an incorruptible… jurisdiction to invest and conduct business in.”

For failing to report the suspicious transaction, Tan could have been fined up to $20,000.

Yahoo News Singapore has reached out to CBRE on the case.

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