First person to be convicted of counterfeiting stamp certificates

11 Feb 2010

Ms Irene Koh Lay Hong (KLH) (许龄方), a former conveyancing secretary was charged in court for counterfeiting 14 Stamp Certificates under Section 64(d) of the Stamp Duties Act (Chapter 312) . The total amount of stamp duty underpaid as a result of her actions amounted to $254, 124.00.

This is the first case where a person has been charged and convicted under the Stamp Duties Act for counterfeiting Stamp Certificates.


Modus Operandi

KLH was employed as a conveyancing secretary in Law Firm A from 1 March 2003 to 25 June 2006. Her job scope included handling documents relating to the sale and purchase of properties and e-stamping the Stamp Certificates for these documents. Subsequently, KLH then worked in Law Firm B also as a conveyancing secretary from 1 June 2007 to 29 December 2008. Whilst being employed in Law Firm B, KLH also assisted Law Firm C in a conveyancing property transaction.

Investigations revealed that KLH had counterfeited the Stamp Certificates for 14 conveyancing property transactions involving the three law firms. She had thereby committed the offences under Section 64(d) of the Stamp Duties Act (Cap. 312).

Under the Stamp Duties Act, stamp duty is payable on documents executed for a sale and purchase of property. It is computed on the purchase price or market value of the property (whichever is higher). KLH handled the e-stamping of the sale and purchase agreements on behalf of the law firms. Instead of keying in the actual purchase price of the property in the e-stamping system, KLH deliberately under-stamped the Sale and Purchase Agreement or Option to Purchase which resulted in lower stamp duties payable to the Commissioner of Stamp Duties on 11 occasions. She then doctored the original Stamp Certificates issued by the Commissioner of Stamp Duties by altering details such as purchase price and amount of stamp duty to show the actual purchase price of the property and the stamp duty that should have been paid. With these alterations, she was able to misappropriate the difference in the stamp duty amounts.

On three other occasions, KLH did not stamp the Option to Purchase nor Sale and Purchase Agreement but went on to counterfeit the Stamp Certificates from another property transaction by altering details such as the date of the document, the property description, the purchase price, the names of the transferor and transferee and the amount of stamp duty paid. With the counterfeited Stamp Certificates, she was then able to misappropriate the entire stamp duty amount.

For all the 14 conveyancing property transactions, KLH had counterfeited the Stamp Certificates to cover up her taking of the monies and passing the Stamp Certificates off as genuine. She had thereby committed the offences under Section 64(d) of the Stamp Duties Act (Cap. 312).


Court Sentencing

The Court sentenced KLH to a total of 12 months of imprisonment.

Voluntary Disclosure on omission or underpayment of stamp duty

IRAS takes a very serious view of non-compliance with stamp duty laws. Severe penalties as high as 4 times the stamp duty owed may be imposed on documents that are stamped late or insufficiently stamped. IRAS would like to encourage law firms or their clients to voluntarily come forward to make full disclosure of the omission or under-payment of stamp duty. In the spirit of encouraging voluntary compliance, IRAS is prepared to reduce the penalty to 5% per annum for voluntary disclosure made before the initiation of an audit review or query from IRAS.

A voluntary disclosure relating to an omission can be made by stamping the document via the IRAS e-stamping website or at Revenue House. Taxpayers who wish to disclose underpayment of stamp duty should write to:

Commissioner of Stamp Duties
Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore
55 Newton Road, Revenue House
Singapore 307987
Email: estamp@iras.gov.sg
Fax: 6351 3694

More details can be found at www.iras.gov.sg

Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore