Widow who squandered $1m: Lawyer says donors have little control

Widow who squandered $1m: Lawyer says donors have little control

SINGAPORE - When Malaysian cleaner Chandra Mogan Panjanathan, 34, was killed in a freak accident at Changi Airport two years ago, Singaporeans dug into their pockets to help his widow and children.

Madam Pusparani Mohan and her four children received close to $1 million in donations and insurance payouts. But the 34-year-old Malaysian quit her job as a cleaner, returned to Malaysia and lost all that money in just one year.

Madam Pusparani's story, reported in The Sunday Times last week, left many readers angry. But a lawyer told The Sunday Times that in her case, it was hard for donors to control how she spent the money.

If the donations were channelled to her without any written agreement to set out her boundaries and obligations, then donors had no say over how she spent the money, said lawyer Chia Boon Teck of Chia Wong LLP.

"Because the donations came from many sources, no one donor can take charge of the total donations," he said. If there had been just one donor, the person could have set up a trust fund to spell out how the beneficiary should spend the money, he added.

With many donors involved and no one party able to dictate terms, the donations were made on the assumption that the beneficiary would spend the sum responsibly, he said. Few would check how the money given was used.

"The feel-good factor about giving a donation lasts for a few minutes. Nobody wants to be saddled with the responsibility of having to monitor the usage of donations after that," he added.

Such a scenario was one of the factors that led to the setting up of the Ray of Hope Initiative in November 2012, one of its founders told The Sunday Times.

The non-profit organisation wants to be the middleman connecting those who are featured in the media after suffering a sudden crisis, with donors who want to help but do not know how to get the money to them.

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