Sun, Sep 13, 2009
The Straits Times
Brookes faces another lawsuit for $528,000

By Amelia Tan

THE partners behind the school offering fake degrees, who did not contest a suit filed by 19 students, have been ordered by the High Court to pay the students back $529,000.

But that is not the end of it.

Brookes Business School's Benny Yap and Lim Cheow Young are staring at another lawsuit, this one filed by 31 students, who are asking for $528,000.

The hearing for this suit will be held on Sept 25.

Courts usually rule against defendants who do not respond to the suit by a given deadline.

However, lawyers who spoke to The Straits Times said that tracking down the two men's assets could be a drawn-out business - and one that may not yield fruit at that.

The Ministry of Education ordered Brookes shut in mid-July after The Straits Times exposed it for conferring fake degrees from brand-name universities including Australia's Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

About 400 students, half of them foreigners, were left in the lurch with the closure of the school.

The two groups of students who have sought legal action, mostly Chinese nationals, are represented by lawyer Leonard Loo.

Mr Loo said his next step was to find out where the two men have parked their assets and assess their value.

He added: 'Four hundred students each paid an average of $20,000 in school fees.

'We're looking at two people who had $8 million passing through their hands. The money has to be somewhere, and I'm here to help my clients find it.'

Checks on the legal portal LawNet have indicated that neither of the two men has filed for bankruptcy.

Lawyers explained that probes would include getting court orders to freeze the two men's bank accounts and other assets, doing property searches and selling their assets.

Lawyer Amolat Singh pointed out, however, that the fact that the pair did not put up a defence shows they do not care.

'These are tell-tale signs that either they have no money left, or they have transferred their money to other countries. I doubt the students can recoup much of their losses,' he said.

Lawyer Subhas Anandan, who is representing Mr Yap on criminal matters, said his client had not engaged a lawyer for the suits filed by the students because he had no money.

He confirmed that Mr Yap was still in the country and was assisting the police with investigations. The police have not told him if his client will be charged.

Meanwhile, the Association of Private Schools and Colleges Singapore has helped about 300 Brookes students apply for places in new schools.

However, only about 180 have been offered places. Many failed to meet entry requirements or could not afford to pay the school fees.

A student who wanted to be known only as Mark said he was already servicing a loan for the $20,000 in school fees he paid Brookes.

'To enrol in the new school, I have to pay $6,000 more. I can't afford this. So although I now have a place in a new school, I can't continue my studies.'

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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