Cleaner cheated of $400,000 still believes he owes Government money

SUPPORT: Mr Tan Soy Kiang lives with his niece Pamela Lim and her family.

The 70-year-old cleaner remains convinced that he owes money to the Government.

"I will believe otherwise only when someone from the Government tells me that I don't owe them money any more," Mr Tan Soy Kiang told The New Paper in Teochew, in his niece's home at Jalan Gembira, off MacPherson Road, yesterday.

Mr Tan even chided his niece, Ms Pamela Lim, a 39-year-old real estate agent, for going to the media with his predicament.

"He asked me what if the interest get compounded with all this attention," she said.

"He was also afraid it would get him fired from his job at the petrol station."

Since the news broke in The New Paper on Sunday, well-wishers have been dropping in at the Esso station at Lorong 2 Toa Payoh to see him.

The third child in a six-children household, Mr Tan, a bachelor, lived with his parents at Block 107, Lorong 1 Toa Payoh. When his father died in 1991, he was left to fend for himself.

Neighbours in the block said they had seen him around until last year. Many knew where he worked and some said he was simple-minded. They did not interact with him.

Mr Tan's plight surfaced when Ms Lim noticed after she came back from Australia that her uncle was constantly borrowing money from her mother and others.

"He has two jobs. There is no way he doesn't have enough money to take care of himself. So I questioned him doggedly until he confessed," she said.

Mr Tan told her that he had given more than $400,000 to two Singaporean women over the last 15 years after they told him the money was for a debt he owed the Government.


He had given them his CPF savings of $53,000 and his monthly pay packets from his two jobs - as a cleaner at Kim Keat Avenue in the morning and a petrol pump assistant in the evening.

When Ms Lim confronted the women about a year ago, she found out that the debt was nonexistent and just a ploy for them to get Mr Tan to give them his money.

She subsequently made two police reports.

One of the women, Madam Tan Hwee Ngo, 65, has been arrested and is now out on police bail. Her alleged accomplice, Madam Boo Sok Hiang, 69, is assisting the police in their investigations.

Ms Lim has taken her uncle under her wing, and he has been living with her since 2013.

She said she has also set up a joint account with Mr Tan "so his pay can go there and it makes it easier for me to monitor his spending".

"I used to live with my grandparents when they were alive," she said.

"Among all his nieces and nephews, I was closest to him. I may not be his daughter but I feel I have to look after him. He has no one else."

Ms Lim described her uncle as a "kind-hearted and simple man" who would water the plants of Kim Keat residents free of charge. He also helped the "rag-and-bone auntie collect old newspapers and old stuff to sell".

When TNP visited her home yesterday, Mr Tan had just finished lunch and was playing with Pepper, the family dog.

Ms Lim said of Mr Tan: "He's very naive and child-like. That's why I felt angry when I found out what was happening.

"He had to hold down two jobs to repay a debt that wasn't real. I couldn't bear to see him so tired from working two jobs."

This article was first published on February 10, 2015.
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