KL High Court slams ‘fraudulent’ property agent and fake lawyer for bid to cheat prominent Puthucheary family

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 11 — A judge in the High Court here ruled last month in favour of the defendants in a case she described as “obviously a fraudulent and sham claim by fraudulent personas” to force the sale of property for RM40 million instead of the offer price of RM60 million.

In her judgment dated January 22, Judge Datuk Azimah Omar repeatedly called Thevandran Ragavan, the principal of well-known KL real estate agents Thevan Realty, a fraudster, using the term “Fraudulent Thevan” throughout her written judgment.

She also singled out Maragatham Karuppiah, a woman who pretended to be a lawyer and was named in the judgment as “Fraudulent Usha” in an attempt to force the sale at a lower price of a piece of land in Johor belonging to the prominent Puthucheary family.

According to the facts of the case laid down in Azimah’s written judgment, the defendants Firwas Sdn Bhd is a family business incorporated by James Puthucheary and his brothers in 1983. Three of the four brothers, including James, have since died.

The company survives under the ownership of James’ widow Mavis, Dominic Puthucheary and the remaining estates of the dead brothers. Firwas is left under the care of James’ son Jasim.

James Puthucheary was a former lawyer and a founding member of the People’s Action Party (PAP) in Singapore. He was banned from Singapore in the 1960s, and subsequently, practised law in Malaysia.

His brother Dominic Puthucheary was a one-term MP for Nibong Tebal in the 1990s.

At the end of 2017 and early 2018, Firwas Sdn Bhd intended to sell its plot of land in Johor.

“What the Defendant thought was an opportunity to sell (but instead turned into an insidious ploy to defraud) was the introduction (by Jasim’s now wife, Irene Raj Kumar (“Irene”)) to Thevandran a/l Ragavan (“the fraudulent property agent/fraudulent Thevan/Thevan”).

“The fraudulent Thevan sought to abuse the close friendship he shared with Irene. In all dealings and negotiations regarding the subject land, Irene and Jasim had always worked in tandem (together with Mavis as shareholder) to represent Firwas’ interest. In fact, it is by the ticket of Irene’s friendship with fraudulent Thevan, that Firwas had approached Thevan to assist Firwas to find a prospective buyer of the subject land circa late 2017 and early 2018,” the judge wrote in her judgment.

Thevan then introduced Firwas to the failed purchaser, Siva Kumar Jeyapalan, who is also the second plaintiff, who had offered to purchase the subject land for the purchase price of RM60 million.

Firwas never directly communicated with the purchaser.

“Instead, the negotiations were by and large orchestrated by the fraudulent Thevan (together with the fraudulent lawyer). Since the initial stages of negotiation, it was absolutely clear that Firwas was looking for at least a RM60,000,000 valuation for the purchase price,” Judge Azimah added in her judgment.

“Prior to negotiations, the purchaser had allegedly demonstrated their commitment by paying an earnest deposit to the fraudulent property agent to the amount of RM1.2 million. It remains undisputed that this earnest deposit had never been remitted nor paid to the Defendant-vendor and had always remained in the possession of the fraudulent property agent.

“It was clearly mentioned and discussed that the purchase price for the property was RM60 million. The temporary receipt stipulated that the purchase price was for RM40,000,000.00 (to be paid in 2 tranches) while a contemporaneous signed Letter of Undertaking by the fraudulent property agent had admitted that the final 3rd tranche RM20 million shall be paid simultaneously with the 2nd tranche of the RM40 million under the temporary receipt.

“The reasons the negotiations were aborted were inter alia plainly that: a. The Defendant rejected all the Draft SPAs drafted by the fraudulent lawyer as the Draft SPAs did not clearly reflect the RM60 million purchase price that was preliminarily negotiated upon; b. The Defendant rejected all the Draft SPAs considering the conspicuous and dubious manner the fraudulent lawyer and fraudulent property agent was insistent that the Draft SPAs to only reflect the price of RM40 million; c. The Defendant rejected all the Draft SPAs in fear of being held accountable to collude in a tax evasion scheme for understating the true purchase price of RM60 million within the Draft SPA itself; d. The Defendant rejected all the Draft SPAs as it was never agreed that the final 3rd tranche of the RM60 million be satisfied via transfer of some properties of equal value. Instead, the Defendant had at all times insisted that all the RM60 million shall be paid by liquid means.

Judge Azimah went on to note that “unbeknownst to and without the Defendant-company’s knowledge, the fraudulent lawyer and the fraudulent property agent colluded and had ‘accepted’ one of the sham Draft SPAs which led to the Plaintiffs to sign one of the sham SPAs prepared by the fraudulent lawyer. Supposedly, the Plaintiffs were insisting that the fraudulent lawyer’s and the fraudulent property agent’s acceptance would bind the Defendant-vendor as principal. [9] In furtherance of their detestable scheme, the fraudulent lawyer and the fraudulent property agent allegedly had ‘accepted’ a further deposit of RM4,800,000.00 (paid to the fraudulent lawyer’s firm) from the fraudulent Plaintiffs. This was yet another façade employed in the machinations to fraudulently force the Defendant-vendor to commit and conform to the sham SPA that it had never agreed to.”

On the matter of the fake lawyer who prepared the “sham SPAs’, Judge Azimah wrote:

“Adding further misfortune to Firwas, the fraudulent Thevan had on 2.2.2018 introduced to Firwas, the legal conveyancing services of one Maragatham a/p Karuppiah (“fraudulent Usha / fraudulent lawyer / Usha”). It was well within evidence that fraudulent Usha was falsely holding herself out as a licensed lawyer when in truth, she was far from any legal qualification. Her LLB(hons) qualification printed on her (un)professional calling card was a total sham. Unbeknownst to Firwas, fraudulent Usha together with one of her ‘fraudulent firm’s’ partners were currently facing criminal charges for her fraudulent and illegal practice. Usha was in actuality a deceitful pretender who ‘ran’ and salaried the operation of Messrs Mohd Faidzol Rahimi & Partners (now known as Chambers of Rahimi Ibrahim & Co) (“Usha’s fraudulent firm”).”

Knowing the defendants had sold the property they schemed to defraud them by claiming they had put a down payment on the purchase of the land for RM40 million when Siva Kumar claimed to have deposited RM1.2 million into Thevan’s account as an earnest deposit, Usha and Thevan went further in their scheme by allegedly accepting an additional deposit of RM4.8 million from Siva for the purchase. This was another deceptive tactic to pressure Jasim into adhering to the sham SPA, despite never agreeing to it. The deposit was never remitted nor paid to the Firwas and had always remained in the possession of Thevan.

Despite the breakdown in negotiations, the plaintiffs persistently attempted to coerce Jasim into accepting the fraudulent agreement. Usha, in particular, continually modified the agreement, attempting to obfuscate the agreed-upon terms and misrepresent the purchase price. Despite Jasim’s steadfast refusal to sign off on the sham agreement, the plaintiffs doggedly pursued their fraudulent claims.

The culmination of the plaintiffs’ deception came when they attempted to defraud Firwas by falsely claiming they had made substantial payments towards the purchase of the land. Usha and Thevan, in cahoots with Siva, allegedly fabricated evidence to support their fraudulent claims, including a perjured bank statement purporting to show significant deposits into the firm’s account.

Usha had attempted to prove receipt of the monies by tendering into the court a perjured AmBank Account statement which supposedly showed that the firm’s account had a balance of RM4,808,048.22. AmBank officers were called to testify, and the officers testified that the figures in the account statement had been altered.

In actuality, the real and authentic account statement indicated that the firm’s account only had RM48.22. Usha admitted in court that she had perjured the documents.

“The lengths and extent fraudulent Usha would endeavour to sell her deception was immeasurable. It was not beneath Usha to tender into this court forgeries and perjury. This ran consistent with Usha’s fraudulent constitution from the very setup of her fraudulent firm. It is second nature to Usha to lie and deceive. It is not at all far-fetched that Usha had ill-intentions from the very beginning of her introduction to Firwas by fraudulent Thevan,” Judge Azimah said.

As for Siva, Judge Azimah said Siva abused his former agent-principal relations with Firwas, Thevan, and Usha by knowingly participating in the fraudulent scheme. He lied about the agreed purchase price and wrongfully lodged a caveat on the land, all while feigning innocence and ignorance of the land’s sale to a subsequent purchaser.

Siva’s actions, including direct communication with Thevan and Usha, aimed to further the fraudulent scheme to deceive.

“The case before this Court was a patently and obviously a fraudulent and sham claim by fraudulent personas who by their concerted deceit and outright lies maliciously attempted to force the Defendant-vendor to conform and abide by a fraudulent Draft Sale and Purchase Agreement (which at all times was never signed and in fact had been clearly rejected by the Defendant-vendor).

“The fraud was concocted by the Plaintiffs themselves together with another fraudulent property agent and a fraudulent interloper within the legal fraternity who was unlawfully holding herself out as a qualified person (and lawyer) despite having proven to have forged her qualifications before the Malaysian Bar Council. The sheer magnitude of falsity emanating from this sham claim was overtly astounding to the grave extent that this Court must remark its disdain and chagrin to the callous and brazen deceit that the Plaintiffs and its cohorts have tried to delude this Court to believe,” Judge Azimah wrote.

Judge Azimah delivered a damning verdict, dismissing the plaintiffs’ claims and counterclaims as illegitimate, fraudulent, and void from the outset.

She unequivocally declared that Firwas was not bound by any terms of the sham agreement, which was concocted through deceit and forgery.

Furthermore, the judge held all three plaintiffs — Siva, Thevan, and Usha — accountable for their roles in perpetrating the fraud.

She ordered the removal of the plaintiffs’ wrongful caveat on the property and awarded damages, including general, exemplary, and aggravated damages, to Firwas.

“This court orders that Siva is liable to pay general damages (Judgment Sum) for wrongful entry of his caveat assessed at the rate of eight per cent per annum x RM52,200,000 for the entire period from the accrual date September 22, 2020 until 14 days after the full removal of Siva’s wrongful caveat.

“This Court also orders that Siva is liable to pay exemplary and aggravated damages of RM100,000 to Firwas. This court also orders that both Thevan and Shoba (as partner of Usha’s fraudulent firm) to be jointly and severally liable to the general damages (Judgment Sum) above that Siva is liable to pay to Firwas and this court also orders that both Thevan and Shoba are respectively liable to pay RM100,000 each in exemplary and aggravated damages to Firwas,” she said.

Additionally, she admonished the legal fraternity for failing to take action against fraudulent practitioners, urging all counsels involved in the case to bring such illegalities to the attention of the proper authorities.

“Lastly, it would be severely remiss if this court were to ignore the glaring illegality that is the fraudulent manner in which Usha is rendering fraudulent legal services by manipulating and abusing other qualified lawyer’s license and certificates to practice. It is only appropriate and just that this court urged not only Firwas’s counsels, but all counsels involved in the present case to safeguard the sanctity of the legal fraternity from being tainted and defiled by Usha’s blatant rendering of fraudulent legal services,” said Judge Azimah, adding that Usha’s credentials were not challenged nor disputed in court by her lawyers.

“This is a serious matter that even transcends the litigation of the present case itself. Thus, this court calls and urges all counsels involved in the present case to bring this illegality to light to the proper authorities,” she said.

Malay Mail reached out to Jasim who expressed his disappointment that there was not enough done to protect the public from fake, illegal and fraudsters in the legal fraternity.

“The Judge said what she said because to date despite what happened the professional bodies have not investigated these matters on their own. We made a complaint to the Bar whose disciplinary committee till today have not done anything despite our complaint and have not come up with any findings or judgement against these people.

“It’s glaring that they’re not protecting their own profession by making sure that people when they engage with those that say they’re from the legal fraternity are not. And I think these were the things that may have angered the judge in that the legal fraternity is not taking care of its own.

“The thing is if these kinds of people can pull off these fraudulent things and not face any action then there’s no deterrent for others, so the public is really exposed to these kinds of scams,” he said.

On Monday February 5, 2024 the plaintiffs lost their application for a stay of execution.

The trial took place at the Civil High Court over 16 days from 2022 until mid-2023 in Kuala Lumpur in front of Judge Azimah. She was elevated to the Court of Appeal in January 2023. The judgment was released last month.

Firwas was represented by senior counsel Datuk David Morais and his team of Pavitra Pillai, Sara Jaliany and Ellia Fatana.