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Friday, 22 June 2012

Lawyer fleeced millions from victims in property scam

Lawyer on the run

 KUALA LUMPUR : A 44-year-old lawyer is said to be on the run with millions of ringgit from a get-rich-quick scheme involving properties in the Klang Valley.

The man is alleged to be the mastermind behind a syndicate which had duped more than 500 investors nationwide into parting with between RM25,000 and RM80,000 each under a racket similar to the Ponzi scheme.

Over the short span of about a year that the scheme was active, the syndicate also took ownership of more than 200 properties mainly apartments and flats units worth about RM15 million under the lawyer’s name and several of his proxies.

According to sources, the syndicate had offered a list of properties it owned to investors for low prices on a deal to help them re-sell it at much higher prices.

Upon the victims picking the property of their choice and settling payment in full, the syndicate produced fake sale-and-purchase and ownership documents.

With the dud documents, the victims were given the notion that they were the new owners of the property and were assured of earning rental income from it until it is sold at a profit.

Police learnt that the ownership of the properties never changed hands and went on to remain in the names of the syndicate members.

The “sold” properties were then “resold” several times again to other potential investors who were also given fake ownership documentation.

Last year, several investors who realised they had been fleeced by the syndicate lodged police reports at the Brickfields police station.

An investigation was initiated by the police Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) after elements of fraud and illegal deposit-taking was found in the case.

On getting wind that the authorities were looking for him, the lawyer, his accomplices and proxies fled the country together with their ill-gotten gains.

Earlier this year, the Special Task Force (Operations and Terrorism) Department’s anti-money laundering branch was roped in to assist in the probe.

After months of painstakingly compiling a list of the said properties, the investigation team obtained a court order two weeks ago to seize 79 flats and apartment units out of the 188 police had identified.

Federal special task force director Commissioner Datuk Mohamad Fuzi Harun told theSun that police have sought the help of Interpol to track down the mastermind and his accomplices.

“Most of the victims were retirees and senior citizens from the middle and low-income groups who lost either a large portion or all of their life savings.

“When we checked, several dozens of the ‘houses’ sold by the syndicate did not even exist or were not up for sale at all. The victims did not appear to own any of the properties.

“They were merely given falsified and fake documents. We have identified 188 and seized 79 properties so far but we believe there are more out there which we are trying to trace, he said, adding that Malaysian police have alerted Interpol to be on the lookout for the suspects who have gone into hiding overseas.

Mohamad Fuzi said police believe there are hundreds of people who have been fleeced in the racket and have yet to lodge police reports.
He advised them to come forward to assist police investigations.

The case is being probed as cheating under Section 420 of the Penal Code while the seizure of properties were made under Section 41 of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act (Amla).

Charles Ramendran