A fine imposed on a former property agent has been reduced from $18,000 to $8,000 on appeal, after Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon agreed with the defence’s claim that it was disproportionately high, said media reports.
He also noted that the starting point for the quantum imposed by the district judge, who relied on cases involving unregistered estate agents performing the work of an estate agent, is not “entirely appropriate”.
The first to be prosecuted for moneylending offences under the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA), Ghazali Mohamed Rasul was a former registered agent with PropNex Realty.
In 2011, he received a kickback of $150 from a moneylender he had introduced to a client who was having financial problems and wanted to sell his flat.
Ghazali was then charged with two counts of moneylending offences under the CEA, with four other similar charges taken into consideration.
The CEA had urged the district judge, in its written submissions on sentencing, to impose a fine of $15,000 as well as two weeks in prison for every charge. It explained that salespersons who refer their clients to moneylenders cause serious social problems as some low-income clients have little choice but to sell their properties in order to repay the high-interest loans.
But defence lawyers Andrea Gan and Derek Kang said in their written submissions that Ghazali had “absolutely no payment or commission arrangements” with the moneylender and that the payments he had received had been offered to him.
Moreover, Kang argued that the amount involved – two payments of $150 – was “extremely modest”.
He noted that Ghazali, who had been called in for a single offence, did not only pleaded guilty to such offence, he also helped the prosecution build its case against himself after voluntarily disclosing that he also made similar referrals to three other clients.