Public Prosecutor v Tuen Huan Rui Mary

CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
JudgeMalcolm Tan Ban Hoe
Judgment Date10 April 2003
Neutral Citation[2003] SGDC 81
Citation[2003] SGDC 81
Published date06 October 2003
Plaintiff CounselIvan Chua and Aedit Abdullah (Deputy Public Prosecutors)
Defendant CounselAccused in person, Mr. Ramesh Tiwary (Leo Fernando) discharged on the first day of the hearing

The Accused

The Accused faced two charges of criminal breach of trust punishable under section 406 of the Penal Code, Chapter 224. The charges (which were preferred by the Commercial Affairs Department [“CAD”]) averred that on or about 21st July 1999, whilst entrusted with two cheques of $30,000[1] and $20,000[2] issued by Png Beng Hong, she encashed the said cheques and used the proceeds therefrom for her own personal use.

2. At the time of the hearing, the Accused was an undischarged bankrupt. She is a divorcee and a Canadian citizen, with Singapore Permanent Resident status. She had previously been a Director of three companies, viz. Ferriby Marine Consultants Pte. Ltd. (“FMC”), Ferriby International Consulting Pte. Ltd. (“FIC”), and Gramary Pte. Ltd. (“Gramary”). In the course of the hearing, the Accused testified that FMC provided consultancy services to companies in the marine industry to obtain ISO certification. She was in this company from 1995 until sometime in May 2000. FIC was an off-shoot of this company set up in 1997 to deal with non-marine industry companies to obtain ISO certification. Gramary was set up to provide rental of small office spaces in a unit at International Plaza. The Accused also styled herself as a systems auditor.

The Background of the Case and Some Undisputed Facts

3. The Prosecution’s main witness, PW1 Ms Png Beng Hong testified that she issued the two cheques to the Accused on 21st July 1999 in order to partly settle share trading losses amounting to $127,725.74 in her Kim Eng Securities trading account. The cheques were made out in cash to allow the Accused to quickly encash them so that the losses can be paid swiftly. This account of events was denied by the Accused. PW1 is known to the Accused and the other relevant witnesses as “Cecilia”.

4. It is, however, undisputed that the two cheques were encashed by the Accused. PW2 Zulkanain Abdul Hamid, a bank executive with the Development Bank of Singapore (“DBS”). He gave evidence, through PS1, that P3 (the cheque for $30,000) and P4 (the cheque for $20,000) were encashed by the Accused on 21st July 1999 and 22nd July 1999 respectively.

5. P3 in respect of $30,000 was encashed at the POSB Raffles Place Branch after the bank officer confirmed with Cecilia that it was valid at about 3:30 pm on 21st July 1999, as indicated on the back of the cheque. The Accused’s particulars were recorded at the back of P3. As for P4 in respect of $20,000, this cheque was encashed by the Accused on 22nd July 1999 at 11:17 am as indicated on the reverse side. It is not disputed that both cheques came from Cecilia.

6. The undisputed evidence is that the Accused came to know Cecilia in April or May 1999 as a result of her making a ‘cold call” to Cecilia’s office relating to her ISO business. The Accused subsequently introduced her former companion and beau, one Tan Hak Miang (“THM” or “Tan”) to Cecilia sometime in May 1999. Whether it was a chance or pre-arranged meeting is disputed.

7. At the material time, the Accused was known as Mary Lee Man Lai. She subsequently changed her name to Mary Tuen Huan Rui on 5th July 1999. According to the Accused, this was because Tan was of the view that her name was unlucky and had consulted some sort of fortune teller.

8. It is also not disputed that there was some sort of verbal share-trading arrangement between Cecilia and THM. Following from this agreement, Cecilia opened share trading accounts with Kim Eng Securities (a contra trading account) and Citibank N.A. Singapore (a margin trading account). This was sometime in May 1999. THM conducted trades in these accounts directly. He would also advise Cecilia and give instructions to her to trade in her other accounts. She also had accounts in DBS Securities Pte. Ltd., Mees Pierson Asia Pte. Ltd., Deutsche Morgan Grenfell Pte. Ltd., and JM Sassoon & Co. Pte. Ltd.

9. Cecilia’s trading accounts prospered initially and as a result, she issued two cheques totalling $29,000[3] for Tan as his share of the profits.

A Gist of the Prosecution’s Case and Primary Evidence

10. The Prosecution averred, based on Cecilia’s evidence, that the share-trading arrangement was initiated by the Accused who tempted her by showing her various properties which were purportedly the fruits of “get rich quick” share trading. According to Cecilia, sometime towards the end of May 1999, the Accused arranged for her to meet Tan at an hotel. Subsequently, the share-trading arrangement was agreed upon. Cecilia’s evidence was that under the share-trading agreement, any profits in trading were to be shared equally (“50 – 50”) between her on the one hand, and the Accused and Tan on the other. Any losses were to be borne by the Accused and Tan. Cecilia also testified that the Accused was directly involved in the arrangement, as she hardly knew Tan, whereas the Accused was then her friend. Cecilia had put in $400,000 into her Citibank margin account to facilitate the trading. She was completely under the thrall of the Accused and Tan insofar as share-trading was concerned as she knew little about the market. Accordingly, she left everything to the duo, particularly as she was very busy at that point of time in 1999. Her evidence was that she was the Managing Director of Vibration and Sound Services & Sales Pte. Ltd., and was very busy with her business.

11. She therefore authorised Tan to trade in some of her accounts. However, all her dealings were through the Accused, whom she considered her friend. She further testified that the Accused would be aware of all the share dealings as the trading statements and summary would be faxed or sent to her (the Accused). While she agreed that initially there were profits, Cecilia testified that by July 1999, her trading accounts were very much in the red. In particular, Kim Eng Securities, through her remisier PW3 Daniel Ng Kok Kheng (‘Daniel’) were pestering her to cough up the losses. Sometime around 20th July 1999, Daniel faxed Cecilia a print-out setting out her losses to date (Exh. P9). This revealed that there was a loss of $124,725.74 at that time.

12. Cecilia was aware that if she did not make good her trading losses, her trading accounts could be suspended, or made delinquent. If the latter happened, she could no longer trade in the Stock Exchange of Singapore (‘SES’) at all, and all her remaining shares will be force-sold at whatever prevailing price. At the same time, there were also losses in her other accounts – eg as set out in Exh. D1, which is a summary statement of account on 20th July 1999 prepared by Cecilia, and in Exh. D14 which is a note from Cecilia directing Mees Pierson (her off-shore bankers) to pay $142,654.36 to JM Sassoon for her trading losses. It is ironic that both documents were shown to Cecilia in cross-examination by the Accused, and tendered as Defence exhibits as the Prosecution initially intended to only concentrate on the Kim Eng account.

13. She turned to the Accused for payment, but to no avail. She then paid out losses amounting to $58,295.44 as part payment of the debt first (Exh. AB1 on ‘Kim Eng Securities’ refers ). According to Cecilia, she then turned to the Accused to settle the remainder immediately. The Accused pleaded that she was financially tight[4] and asked Cecilia to assist her by giving her an advance to pay Kim Eng. She assured Cecilia not to worry as she said Daniel Ng was her (the Accused’s) good friend.

14. She then requested that Cecilia to issue a cash cheque to her so that she could immediately encash them and pay Kim Eng. Cecilia reluctantly agreed, pointing out in Court that this was her ‘last test’ for the Accused who had shirked from paying the losses. As she herself was strapped for cash, Cecilia issued two cash cheques from two different bank accounts, P3 and P4. P3 was drawn from Cecilia’s personal POSBank savings account, whereas P4 was drawn from her joint DBS savings account with her husband Goh Teck Lai (see PS1). Cecilia’s account is that on 21st July 1999, the Accused collected the two cheques from her.

She gave the Accused specific instructions to immediately settle the Kim Eng losses as that was the most pressing account at that time. The Accused agreed, and left with the two cheques.

15. Cecilia discovered that the monies were never paid in to Kim Eng a few days later when she received a call one or two days later, demanding payment. When she tried to contact the Accused, there was no reply notwithstanding numerous phone messages. She never saw the Accused again until after her arrest.

16. There is some evidence that on 22nd July 1999, cash of $30,000 and $5,000 was deposited into the Accused’s Citibank Ready Credit overdraft account (see Exh. P14). In cross-examination of the Accused, it was ascertained that on the same day, a Citibank cheque amounting to $21,028.90 [Exh. D2(1)] from this account was used to partly pay off a trading loss in Cecilia’s DBS Securities trading account. On 28th July 1999, a cheque for $48,647.65 [Exh. D2(2)] was issued from the same account, but bounced subsequently. It is the Prosecution’s case that the Accused had used part of the $50,000 to pay off the DBS Securities losses which she and Tan were supposed to foot, pursuant to the share trading arrangement.

17. PW2 Daniel Ng Kok Kheng agreed that he had forwarded copies of Cecilia’s Kim Eng trading statements to the Accused upon her request. He was under the impression that the Accused and Tan were Cecilia’s fund managers. He was also of the view that Cecilia appeared to be a novice at share trading.

The Defence

18. The Accused raised a number of defences. Her primary defence was that she was not party to the share-trading agreement, and was not aware of whatever arrangements pertained between the Accused and Tan at the material time. Since the Prosecution was proceeding on the basis that she was involved in the scheme, she complained bitterly that she was disadvantaged as many documents had...

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