A court case in Singapore initiated in 2019 for violation of the Intestate Succession Act resulted in a four-year jail presence for 62-year-old Tan Siong Choon, who had misused his late brother’s money for gambling and buying stocks, Singapore media Today reported.
Gambling behind the Misappropriation of Funds
Siong Choon was sentenced to 4 years in prison after pleading guilty to a single charge of criminal breach of trust, following his failure to make any restitution to the family of his late brother Tan Seng Kiam, who died in a car accident in 2012, and instead, misappropriated SGD 550,000 ($396,000) from the funds by gambling at Singapore Pools, purchasing penny stocks, and covering personal expenses.
The case commenced in late 2019, when the only daughter of Siong Choon’s brother filed for examination of judgment debtor proceedings against her uncle in the High Courts, after being left with a balance of just SGD 3,100 ($2,232) in October 2019.
Everything started in November 2012 when Seng Kiam, who had not been in contact with his ex-wife and only daughter since 2000 lost his life in a car accident. Following the accident, his brother contacted his daughter and explained her father’s estate had to be administered and his assets distributed, proposing two possible ways of action: they jointly administer the estate, or she could renounce her right and allow him to have sole administration.
Siong Choon’s niece, 27 at the time, agreed to the second option and since 2013, her uncle became the sole administrator of the estate and funds. By that time, he began misusing her trust, secretly taking money for gambling purposes in the amount of SGD 150,000 (S108,000), as well as using the SGD 23,500 ($16,920) from the sale of his brother’s car to gamble and buy shares.
Siong Choon never explained to his niece how he had dealt with or distributed the assets but following her filing in the High Court in 2019, admitted in a court affidavit that he had misappropriated his brother’s assets and prompted her to file a police report.
Criminal Breach of Trust Charge
Arguing that as an estate administrator, Siong Choon, who was trusted by his brother’s daughter to administer the estate properly, committed profound abuse of trust to squander an unprecedented amount that could have easily tided his niece’s expenses for a substantial amount of her retirement, the Deputy Public Prosecutor sought a sentence of four to five years in jail.
Tan’s actions deprived his niece of her due inheritance, who as the only child was entitled to the entirety of her father’s estate. On top of that, she had to spend money to take his uncle to court, the prosecutor added.
According to Singapore laws, any criminal breach of trust brings up to seven years in prison or a fine, or both, and Siong Choon may consider himself lucky with the four years he received from the court for his actions.
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