Elderly man cheated of $400,000: 'I'm now good'

With no need to pay off his ‘debt’, Mr Tan Soy Kiang now works only one job as a petrol station pump attendant.
PHOTO: The New Paper

Nowadays, petrol pump attendant Tan Soy Kiang, 70, stands up tall and straight.

There is even a smile on his craggy face.

No longer is he the bent figure of 10 months back, working at the Esso petrol station in Lorong 2 Toa Payoh.

His forehead has also stopped furrowing with worry at paying off a "debt" he supposedly owed the Government.

"He now knows there was no debt," his niece Pamela Lim, 39, a real estate agent, told The New Paper.

"He knows it was a scam devised by the two women. He knows he won't be getting his money back," she added.

"I'm now good," Mr Tan said in Teochew.

For 15 years, he had been paying off a "debt" he was told he owed the Government.

In all, he handed over more than $400,000 to two Singaporean women, whom he had known for years. They told him they would help pay off the debt on his behalf.

But no such debt existed. 

Ms Lim described her uncle, who is not educated, as simple-minded and an even-tempered man.

"We took him to IMH (Institute of Mental Health) to be assessed after the whole case came to light in TNP. We were told that he has a low IQ and therefore is gullible," she said.

Police are still investigating.


Ms Lim said: "Two months ago, I was asked to go and read some of the papers before signing them."

She said her uncle now lives with her and her family in MacPherson.

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

He used to hold two jobs.

From 7am to 11.30am, he worked as a cleaner along Kim Keat Avenue, earning about $1,000 a month, and from 4pm to 10.30pm, he was a pump attendant at the Esso petrol station along Lorong 2 Toa Payoh. That job gave him another $1,000 a month.

"He no longer works as a sweeper in the morning. That job took a toll on him," Ms Lim said.

Mr Tan now works only as a pump attendant with Esso. "He no longer works around the clock. Now, he has enough rest," Ms Lim said.

"He eats regularly. My helpers make sure of that. He has even put on a bit of weight," she added, laughing.

Mr Tan was not able to stand up straight due to a spinal injury, but he can now do so.

Ms Lim said: "We took him for a few massage sessions with a traditional Chinese medicine physician and the treatment worked. He can now lie down on his bed and sleep well."

He even consented to wearing new clothes and shoes, which he used to keep away from, worried that he might be "overspending".

When asked whether he still 'owes' the Government money, Mr Tan replied: "I never did."

How the elderly man got cheated

For 15 years, Mr Tan Soy Kiang, 70, had been paying off a debt he was told he "owed".

Even after taking on two jobs and handing over $53,000 of his CPF savings, Mr Tan struggled to make good.

He borrowed money from neighbours and his 73-year-old sister to feed himself because all his income went to servicing the "debt" to the Government.

No one stopped to ask him about the debt, or how he survived, until his niece returned from Australia in 2013.

Mr Tan, who is single and used to live alone, was the victim of an alleged scam by two Singaporean women, who got him to hand over all the money he earned to pay off the Government "debt".

Mr Tan, whom his niece described as being "simple-minded", was allegedly conned into giving more than $400,000 of his hard-earned money to the pair.

It took a year, a video taping of the women's confessions and two police reports before they were arrested.

Police are still investigating the case.

This article was first published on Dec 28, 2015. Get The New Paper for more stories.