Friday, July 25, 2008

Vandals Keen On En-Bloc Sale Damage Cars

Source : The Straits Times, July 24, 2008

Lexus and Toyota vandalised in the latest attacks in Laguna Park

HUNGER for en-bloc dollars looks to have turned vicious at a quiet private estate in East Coast.

On Tuesday night, two residents of the 530-unit Laguna Park estate discovered that their cars had been doused with a corrosive liquid, possibly paint thinner.

UGLY ACT: Corrosive liquid was thrown on a Lexus belonging to a Laguna Park resident who is against a collective sale of the estate. It may have been a vicious attempt to change his mind. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

They were among the residents who had not yet agreed to put the seaside development up for sale. Earlier this month, two other cars belonging to the dissenting group were also vandalised.

Residents claim they were the latest of several cases of vandalism that began after the possibility of going en-bloc arose last December.

The estate has until the end of this year to gather an 80 per cent vote to put it up for sale. But so far, residents say less than 65 per cent are onboard.

Residents have been told by a property valuer that an average unit could be worth more than $2.1 million and the penthouses almost $4 million if the estate goes en-bloc. A resident said the market rate for a normal unit now is about $1.3 million.

Some of the holdouts have lived in Laguna Park since it was built in 1977, while others have been there for many years.

Some residents told The Straits Times they were surprised that the sale has fostered so much acrimony.

Five cars have been vandalised in recent weeks, said the outgoing chairman of the condominium's management committee, Mr Chua SC, who declined to give his full name. Some vehicles were doused with a corrosive liquid while others were scratched and splashed with black paint.

Police reports have been made and investigations are under way.

An independent analyst said residents sometimes do strange things in the hopes of pushing through an en bloc sale.

'But resorting to criminal acts...this would be the first time,' said Mr Ku Swee Yong, Savills' director of marketing and business development.

The vandalism could ultimately be a futile exercise with the cooling property market, said Mr Ku.

'It's a bit of a long shot in these market conditions to find buyers.'

Laguna Park residents told The Straits Times yesterday that they believed the vehicle attacks were 'inside jobs' committed by people who support the en-bloc deal.

If this proves true, Mr Chua thinks it is a 'very stupid, silly and naive way of trying to get people to sign'.

'I don't think this is the right way to do it,' said an agitated Mr Chua, who had the logo ripped off his Nissan about three weeks ago.

Mr Robin Sng, a company director, owns one of the cars damaged on Tuesday night. The corrosive liquid ate away the paint on the bonnet, door and bumper of his four-year-old Lexus.

'I feel frightened,' he said.

A brand new Toyota parked 50m away was also vandalised on the same night.

A resident diligently went round the estate's dustbins and found a can of paint remover in a rubbish bin near the carpark. The can was taken away as evidence by the police, who are investigating the rash of vandalism.

Mr Chua said he told residents at a recent annual general meeting that something had to be done about the cases.

Residents earlier shot down the idea of installing surveillance cameras, he said.

'Now I suppose it has become urgent enough to reactivate the idea.'

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