Puthucheary family member’s close brush with fraud sparks calls for action against deceptive law practitioners

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 11 — Jasim Puthucheary, son of People's Action Party (PAP) founder James Puthucheary,, lamented the lack of action taken against people pretending to be legal practitioners of the law.

Jasim and his company Firwas Sdn Bhd were recently the victims of a scam in which an individual pretending to be a lawyer had tried to dupe him into losing RM20 million on a land sale.

After taking the matter to court, it came to light that the individual in question had forged all her certificates and documents allegedly from Brickfields Asia College (BAC), had been operating under a company but the company name was someone else’s and the staff were mere puppets, and all financial transactions went through this fraudulent person pretending to be a lawyer.

“I have learnt people are not trustworthy and just because they have name cards or work in a professional organisation or claim to be what they are not. In this trial, we have seen a lot of forged documents produced.

“Professional bodies like the real estate valuers board and Bar Council are not protecting their reputation by not taking action against these people. We have made complaints to both bodies, but to date, despite the judge saying what she says she’s saying it because the professional bodies have not investigated these matters on their own.

“In fact, we finished our disciplinary committee complaint three years ago. They have yet to come out with the findings which are so clear when forged documents are produced but the disciplinary committee can’t even come up with a judgment,” he told Malay Mail.

Jasim had trusted a person who was introduced to him by his wife as a real estate agent called Thevandran K. Ragavan who in turn introduced them to a fraudulent lawyer Maragatham Karuppiah, better known as Usha. The duo and a prominent businessman Siva Kumar Jeyapalan had tried to defraud Jasim into selling a piece of land for RM20 million less than the agreed price.

In court documents sighted by Malay Mail, Judge Datuk Azimah Omar was incensed by Usha and the manner in which she had forged her certificate from BAC and forged a bank statement to reflect millions in a bank account when there weren’t any was glaring and unjustifiable.

She referred to the trio as “fraudulent Thevan”, “fraudulent Usha” and “fraudulent Siva” in her written judgment while urging the fraternity to take more care and more action against people pretending to be law practitioners as she felt her court room had been riddled with lies and deceit.

Jasim when asked if he felt the judge was irate, agreed, adding that he felt the reason for that was a lack of action from the authorities to clamp down on scammers, but also a lack of action from the practitioners as well.

The judge ruled that Thevan, Siva and Shoba, a partner in Usha’s fraudulent firm, be liable for damages in the millions; however, Usha has escaped unpunished.

The judge had said that despite Usha’s obvious involvement in the fraud, Firwas had appointed Usha in the misrepresented belief that Usha was a qualified lawyer. Thus, notwithstanding Usha’s clearly forged qualifications, Usha still stood as a person in a fiduciary position to Firwas.

Since Usha was not made a party to the main suit or Firwas’ counter-claim, the court didn’t have the discretion and authority to direct Usha to be jointly and severally liable to the fraud and conspiracy, and at the very least, be liable for the breach of her fiduciary duty owed to Firwas.

“None of the lawyers who represented the other party actually made any reports against the fraudulent lawyer (Usha) nor the law firm. They’ve made no reports against this lady who is holding herself out to be a lawyer,” said Jasim.

“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 February 5, 2024, the plaintiffs lost their application for stay of execution.