Former property agent's fine cut from $18k to $8k

SINGAPORE - A former property agent - the first to be charged for referring clients to moneylenders under toughened rules - had his sentence reduced by the High Court on appeal yesterday.

In slashing the fine handed down to Ghazali Mohamed Rasul from $18,000 to $8,000, Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon agreed with defence counsel that the fine was disproportionately high.

In December 2012, the Council for Estate Agencies brought six charges against Ghazali for referring four clients to a licensed moneylender and receiving payments from the moneylender.

Then with PropNex Realty, he was the first agent to be prosecuted by the council for moneylending-related offences. Under the Estate Agents Act, it is an offence for agents to introduce, refer or recommend or suggest the use of the services of any moneylender to clients.

Last year, Ghazali pleaded guilty to two charges relating to one client, relief taxi driver Mohammad Redzuwan Ibrahim. The other four charges were taken into consideration.

Mr Redzuwan, who was selling his Housing Board flat, told Ghazali that he was financially strapped and asked Ghazali to introduce a moneylender to him. In June 2011, Ghazali took his client to a licensed moneylender, AM Credit, where Mr Redzuwan took out a $7,000 loan. The moneylender paid Ghazali a $150 "referral fee".

District Judge Christopher Goh fined Ghazali $18,000. As there were no sentencing precedents, the judge referred to sentencing benchmarks for cases of unregistered salespersons performing the work of estate agents.

But Ghazali's lawyer, Mr Derek Kang, argued that the judge was wrong to have relied on these cases as a starting point and should instead have referred to cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act for accepting bribes.

This article was first published on June 19, 2014.
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