Friday, July 27, 2007

URA To Up Lease Period Of Scotts Rd Site

Source : The Business Times, July 27, 2007

THE lease period for the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) first transitional office site, at Scotts Road, is to be increased from the proposed 10 years to 15, the authority said yesterday.

The extension is being made in response to market feedback that most investors prefer a longer lease to recoup their investments and to meet the needs of prospective tenants.

In view of the change, the closing date for the tender has been extended by three weeks to Aug22, to give more time for interested investors to reconsider their bids, the URA said.

Industry players generally welcomed the news. 'At 10 years, it could not work out for investors; they're likely to end with a loss from the venture. At 15 years, it can be a marginally profitable venture,' said an industry observer.

CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) executive director Li Hiaw Ho said: 'It's probably workable at 15 years. We've heard of potential tenants who are interested, and are looking for a developer to build a transitional office building on the site and lease the whole building to them.

'They reckon rents should be lower than in the CBD or Orchard Road and the location is convenient, right next to Newton MRT station.'

CBRE estimates the maiden transitional plot should generate about 140,000 sq ft net lettable area of offices.

URA has previously said it expects a low-rise development of three to four storeys which can be built quickly in about a year.

'The site is likely to be awarded for about $100-$150 per square foot per plot ratio,' Mr Li estimated.

S'pore's Private Home Prices Rise 8.3% In Q2

Source : The Business Times July 27, 2007

SINGAPORE - Singapore's private home prices climbed 8.3 per cent in April-June from the previous quarter to their highest level since the first quarter of 1998, government data showed on Friday.

Go visit the URA website its release of Q207 real estate statistics

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said the price index for private residential homes rose to 147.8 for the second quarter, from 136.5 in the previous three-month period.

The second-quarter gain follows a 4.8 per cent rise in the first three months of 2007, prompting concern about possible overheating in the real estate market.

Last week, the URA raised its re-zoning tax on developers, a move that's expected to slow the republic's frenzied redevelopment.

The central bank said on Wednesday that it was increasingly concerned over the growing risk that rising property prices posed to the banking sector.

'The banking sector exposure to the property and construction sector is significant,' said Heng Swee Keat, the managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore. -- REUTERS

Moving From Here? Head For The New CBD

Source : TODAY, Friday,July 27, 2007

Alexandra is becoming the new alternative to the Central Business District as prime office rents continue to escalate, said property consultancy Cushman & Wakefield yesterday.

According to their latest report, more banks have shifted some of their back room operations to Alexandra Road, which is preferred over locations such as Tampines and
Changi, because of its proximity to town.

Alexandra Road is just 10 minutes away from the CBD and has good links to the rest of the island via major road and expressways, said the firm.

Office rental rates there are about 40 to 50 per cent lower than what CBD offices are commanding.

The report added that prime office rates rose 23.1 per cent quarter-on-quarter to average $11.51 psf/month in June, surpassing the 1996 peak by at least 35 per cent

MAS Focus On Rising Property Prices Hits Shares In S'pore

Source : TODAY,Friday, July 27, 2007

SINGAPORE’S stocks fell, led by real estate and banking shares after the central bank warned it was studying the impact of rising property prices.

CapitaLand Ltd, the nation’s largest developer, and DBS Group Holdings Ltd, the biggest lender, paced the retreat.

“Just stay clear,” said Ms Daphne Roth, vice-president of equity research at ABN Amro Private Banking in Singapore.“There’s just too much uncertainty over further cooling measures.”

The ST Index fell 53.81, or 1.5 per cent, to 3,579.73 at the close — its biggest decline in a week. About four stocks fell for each one that rose. July futures
slipped 1.4 per cent to 440.1.

CapitaLand declined 2 per cent to $7.20. City Developments Ltd, the second-biggest developer, slid 2 per cent to $15.10. Keppel Land Ltd, the third-largest, dropped 0.6 per cent to $8.60.

A measure of property stocks has fallen 2.3 per cent since July 18, when the Singapore government raised a property redevelopment charge. The index had risen 38 per cent this year before the announcement was made.

Singapore’s prime office rents have gained more than three times as fast as those in rival hubs Hong Kong and Tokyo, as investment banks and insurers expand operations on
the island.

Investors are also paying record amounts for luxury apartments, prompting the central bank to warn yesterday it was studying such property price gains because of the implications for other industries.

“The banking sector’s exposure to the property and construction sectors as well as to housing loans is significant, and loans have grown over the last few quarters,” said central bank’s managing director Heng Swee Keat. “We are watching developments in the market very carefully.”

DBS, which is scheduled to report its quarterly earnings tomorrow, dropped 60 cents, or 2.6 per cent, to $22.70 — its steepest fall since April 19.

United Overseas Bank Ltd, the nation’s second-biggest lender, fell 40 cents, or 1.8 per cent, to $22.50.

URA Extends Scotts Rd Site’s Lease Period

Source : TODAY,Friday,July 27, 2007

FOLLOWING feedback, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) will extend the lease period for the transitional office site on Scotts Road to 15 years.

It said interested investors wanted a longer lease period to enable them to recoup their investments and cater to tenants’ needs.

The original lease period was pegged at 10 years as future development works in the area could affect the site. However, the lease period was extended following a URA review.

“This fairly regular plot could contribute about 140,000sq ft of offices to the Orchard Road micro-market. The vacancy rate for the area was below 3.5 per cent in the second quarter of 2007,” said Mr Li Hiaw Ho, executive director, CBRE Research.

“It is likely that the site would be of interest to developers as well as single owneroccupiers. It is likely to be awarded for about $100 to $150psf per plot ratio,” he added.

The URA is extending the tender period for the 1.04-ha site, next to Newton MRT station, by three weeks to close at noon on Aug 22. — JOSEPH YADAO

Missing Lawyer, David Rasif 22 Steps To Overstate Flat Valuation To $1m

Source : TODAY,Friday,July 27, 2007

HE CONSPIRED with missing lawyer David Rasif to overstate flat valuations in clients’ applications for bank loans, thereby convincing banks and the CPF Board into providing higher loan amounts.

In the process, the scam, involving the sale of 22 properties, netted a sum close to $1 million.

Yesterday, Goh Chong Liang, 37, a former director of a real estate company, pleaded guilty to his role in the scam. He had committed the 22 offences between December 2003 and September 2004.

The extent of the scam was uncovered by the Commercial Affairs Department soon after Goh was first convicted and jailed in 2005 for another offence.

The court was told that Goh, after showing buyers the flat for sale, would propose to the sellers’ agent a higher price. This inflated price included purported “renovation costs” for the flat.

For example, the sales price of a flat at Block 327 Tah Ching Road (picture) was inflated by $65,000 during a transaction in April, 2004. The sum was then paid to Danis Interior Design — a “shell” business Goh had set up to receive cashback monies on the pretext of carrying out renovation work.

Payment for these “renovations” would then be made through Rasif’s law firm, which would then deduct a share, as “legal fees”, from this amount.

However, renovations were never carried out and Danis Interior Design pocketed a total of $917,500.

Goh also prepared false income documents for most of the buyers. He made CPF contributions to some of the buyers’ CPF accounts from “shell” companies to create a false impression to the banks that the buyers were gainfully employed and had the financial capability to finance the repayment of the loan.

Besides the above offences, Goh also pleaded guilty to 14 other charges of forgery. After investigations against him started, Goh approached Rasif and lawyer David Tan, in March last year for help. Goh claimed Rasif told him to forge documents, and to find someone to sign on the forged documents.

These documents were used to deceive Commercial Affairs Department investigators.

In mitigation, defence lawyer Peter Fernando urged the Court to impose three short consecutive custodial sentences and backdate them to the start of Goh’s remand on May 11.

Goh “was not the mastermind” of the conspiracy, said Mr Fernando. Instead, the two lawyers, Rasif and Tan, played crucial roles in the offences, he said.

Mr Fernando added: “Furthermore, the buyers, sellers and their respective agents all had a hand in the commission of the offences, as rightly stated by the prosecution.” Mr Fernando also argued that Goh’s financial share in the scam was minimal — ranging between $5,000 and $7,000 per transaction.

The prosecution had also not provided evidence to show that the banks had suffered financial losses as a result of the inflated sale prices of the flats.

“Instead, the respective banks which approved the inflated housing loans stood to gain financially in that the inflated prices meant in turn additional interest earned on the housing loan repayments,” argued Mr Fernando.

While Deputy Public Prosecutor Jason Chan accepted that there were no actual losses, he said the impact on banks’ operations would have been “adverse”.

Sentencing has been adjourned to Thursday. Goh is the first to be charged in Court for his role in the scam. The whereabouts of Rasif, who disappeared last year allegedly taking with him about $12 million of his clients’ money, are not known.

On the charges of conspiracy to cheat, Goh faces a maximum seven years’ jail and a fine. On the forgery charges, he faces a maximum two years’ jail and a fine.

"We Feel So Helpless", Says Owners

Source : The Electric New Paper, Friday, 27th July 2007

THEY own flats but still have no place to live.

At least five first-time home-owners have lost thousands of dollars after signing up for renovation work with an interior design company cum contractor.

Music composer George Leong (right) and Mr Alex Lee are two of at least five homeowners who have been left in the lurch by the couple. They are in the Telok Blangah flat of a Malay couple whose walls were hacked but left like this picture: MOHD ISHAK

The owners of the company, a married couple, can no longer be found and the company's registered address is no longer valid.

The wife, who was declared a bankrupt recently, apparently re-registered one of her companies two days after petitioning for bankruptcy and still collected payment from clients after that.

A check with the Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority shows several lawsuits had been filed against her and her husband, either for 'credit-related' or 'contracts-related' reasons since 2001.


The couple, who are involved in two companies, would persuade home-owners to sign up with them with drawings and promises to deliver.

After that, they keep calling their clients for money, without following the schedule of payment in the contract, on the pretext of starting work.

After a few days of work, the workers would disappear, leaving the flats in a mess.

The couple used to be active exhibitors at home fairs where they solicited for business.

Their shop unit is now boarded up and used as a warehouse by a hardware shop two doors away.

The owner of the hardware shop, who has been renting the unit for the past four months, said the interior design company closed down in January this year.

Previously, it was a show office that 'was very nicely done up'. It had more than 10 employees.

He has seen letters from the Small Claims Tribunal sent to the unit. They were mainly from suppliers and subcontractors, he said.

Another interior design company next door has had angry people turning up thinking they are related to the couple's company.

A worker, who declined to be named, said she knew something was wrong about six months ago when 10 people showed up at different times saying they were customers.

The worker added: 'There were also subcontractors who came, as well as a property agent who said they had not paid rent for a few months.'

Music composer George Leong is one client who has been left in the lurch.

Mr Leong, 37, said he met the couple several times at their flat or outside but never at their shop.

He signed a contract with the company totalling over $27,000 in March this year.

According to the terms, Mr Leong had to pay 15 per cent upon signing, 40 per cent when work starts, 40 per cent upon measurement for carpentry work and 5 per cent on job completion.

He paid over $17,000 in four payments even before work started as he claimed the woman kept demanding for money.

Mr Leong said: 'When she asked for money, she wanted it immediately. She said she needed the money to order tiles and book the workers.

'In the end, I gave in because I thought it would be easier for her to do the work.'

Work on his Clementi flat started on 24 May and was scheduled to end on 23 Jun.

But Mr Leong said subcontractors turned up for two days to hack the walls but didn't show up again. The place was left in a mess.

He said: 'It was so hard to reach her after that. When I managed to talk to her, she gave excuses like she was on in a remote part of Johor and couldn't talk.'

Soon after, her handphone line was cut off, and he lodged a police report on 20 Jun.

She had been recommended by a friend, who had also signed up with her, said Mr Leong.

He added: 'She used my friend's house as a showflat although it was only half-done. My friend didn't have any complaints then, so I decided to go with her.'

After encountering problems, Mr Leong checked with his friend and found that he was also having problems with her. The friend had paid up the entire sum of over $20,000.

After his friend returned from work abroad in the middle of last month, he found notes from other home-owners under his door.

They asked if he had experienced any problems with the company, and if he knew how to contact them.

Mr Leong said: 'That's when I realised there were other people in our situation.'

The two friends got in touch with three other clients. The five parties had collectively paid more than $100,000 to the couple.

Among them is a Malay couple who had got the woman to arrange for a bank renovation loan for them.

BORROWED $25,000

They borrowed $25,000 from the bank and instructed it to be handed over to the woman.

The Malay woman and her fiance, who declined to be named, are now saddled with a five-year loan and must repay $500 a month.

She said: 'We thought it would be easier for her to have the money so she could get work done faster.'

The five parties have made police reports but have been advised that theirs are civil cases due to breach of contracts.

Mr Leong said it would be hard for them to take further action as they would incur more costs.

Another affected owner, Mr Alex Lee Ngan Kui, 30, said: 'We are helpless. We can't go to the Small Claims Tribunal because our claims are more than $10,000, and we can't afford to hire a lawyer.'

The owners have staked out the couple's flat in Jurong and gone to the listed office address but have not been able to locate them.

When The New Paper went to the couple's flat, no one answered the door, although there were several pairs of shoes and sandals, and a child's blue sandals on the shoe rack outside.

Mr Leong said: 'If they had been frank about their problems, I wouldn't have minded if they returned part of my money. Instead, they just vanished.'


JUST two days after petitioning for bankruptcy, the woman re-registered one of her companies and continued to accept payments from clients.

A check with the Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) showed she petitioned for bankruptcy on

25 Apr 2007 for owing $164,000.

A bankruptcy order was made on 15 Jun. The Acra check showed that the company was first registered on 16 Dec 2003, and its registration expired on 16 Dec 2006.

It was cancelled on 3Apr 2007 before being re-registered.

In between the expiry and re-registration, the woman issued official receipts bearing collecting money from clients.

Mr George Leong, paid her the day before she filed for bankruptcy. He showed The New Paper his receipt dated 24Apr 2007. The company is listed as a renovation contractor.

Her other company was registered on 22 Sep 2006.

Her husband was the owner until 18 May 2007, when it was transferred to her. The business is listed as 'manufacture of furniture and fixtures of wood'.

There were also five writ of summonses filed against her from 2001 to 2007 for amounts ranging from $2,213 to $13,489. These were for contracts and credit-related issues.

The husband also faced several lawsuits against him from 2001 to 2003, for credit and negligence-related issues.

An Acra spokesman told The New Paper that under section 26(1) of the Business Registration Act, a person who is an undischarged bankrupt cannot own or manage a business without the permission of the High Court or the Official Assignee.

The penalties for breaching section 26(1) is a fine up to $10,000 or a jail term up to two years or both.

After being alerted to the case, a spokesman for the Insolvency & Public Trustee's Office said it is investigating.

Property Agent Who Ran Scam With Missing Lawyer Pleads Guilty

Souce : TODAY,26 July 2007

Runaway Lawyer, David Rasif seen here dancing with his wife

A former director of a real estate company has admitted that he conspired with missing lawyer David Rasif in a scam.

The court heard that together with Rasif, 37-year-old Goh Chong Liang convinced banks and the CPF Board to provide higher bank loans.

They did this by overstating flat valuations in their clients' applications for the loans.

Goh had committed the 22 offences between December 2003 and September 2004.

The extent of the scam was uncovered by the Commercial Affairs Department soon after Goh was first convicted and jailed in 2005 for a similar offence.

The court was told that Goh would show buyers the flat for sale and then propose to the sellers' agent a higher price.

This inflated price included purported "renovation costs" for the flat.

Payment for these "renovations" would then be made through Rasif's law firm, which would then deduct its share as "legal fees" from this amount.

But in truth, renovations were never carried out.

Sentencing has been adjourned to next Thursday (2 Aug). Goh is the first to be charged for his role in this scam.

Rasif, who disappeared last year after allegedly taking about S$12 million of his clients' money with him, is still missing. - TODAY

Cashback: Rasif 'A Prime Mover'

Source : The Straits Times July 27, 2007

THERE was an added element of interest in a property cashback court case yesterday - run-away lawyer David Rasif was fingered as a 'prime mover' in the scam.

In the dock was property agent Goh Chong Liang, 37, who admitted his role in a cashback scam to cheat banks into giving out housing loans.

But all in the gallery listened attentively when both defence lawyer Peter Fernando and Deputy Public Prosecutor Jason Chan pointed to Rasif's stake in the scam.

District Judge Liew Thiam Leng was told of how Goh conspired with Rasif to dupe the banks into granting loans in the scam.

DPP Chan gave the court an idea of how such a scam worked.

A property agent works with a buyer and seller to inflate the price of the seller's flat. This secures a higher housing loan for the buyer. The difference between the loan amount and the actual price of the resale flat is then split between those involved in the scam.

The court heard that Goh had roped in Rasif, through his law firm at the time, to act for flat sellers in the scam.

In order to inflate the price of a flat, Goh included the renovation costs for the flat by a shell company he helped set up. However, the company never carried out any work.

After Rasif's law firm deducted its fees from the sale of the flats, the remainder of the money Goh made was shared by those involved in the scam.

Rasif's law firm, which has since closed, was involved in 22 such transactions in 2004.

In June 2005, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) got wind of the scam.

Aware of the CAD investigation, Goh turned to Rasif and another lawyer in the firm for help.

They told him to forge the documents used in the transactions to throw CAD officers off the trail.

Yesterday, Mr Fernando urged the court to be lenient with his client.

He pointed out that Goh had been very cooperative with investigating officers, which 'significantly' included 'his voluntary information of the role played by him and each and every one involved in the conspiracy'.

Goh is the first to be charged and convicted in the scam. No one else has yet been brought to court.

Goh, who could be jailed for up to seven years, will be sentenced next Thursday.

Hotel Phoenix To Close On Aug 1

Source : The Straits Times,July 27, 2007

Fans of the roti prata from the Hotel Phoenix cafe will have to look elsewhere - the hotel closes on Wednesday after a 35-year run. -- ST PHOTO: FRANCIS ONG

HOTEL Phoenix - famed for the roti prata and other local delicacies at its Phoenix Garden Cafe - will close on Wednesday after a 35-year run.

It is unclear if or when a new Phoenix will arise, but all 150 staff of the Orchard Road landmark, including general manager and veteran hotelier Noel Hawkes, were given their retrenchment notices last week.

OCBC Bank, which owns the hotel and the adjoining Specialist Shopping Centre, declined to comment on the terms of the package, but The Straits Times understands that it is a generous one.

All staff will get a month's pay for each year of service, on top of two months' pay in lieu of notice. For management staff, the payout is capped at 25 months.

There could be more good news for staff: Other hotels are already looking to hire some of them.

Some senior staff have already been snapped up by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Resorts World at Sentosa.

Meanwhile, others, such as Orchard Hotel, are interviewing staff to fill positions in their housekeeping and kitchen departments.

Ms Amy Ang, Orchard Hotel's director of marketing communications, told The Straits Times that her hotel is looking to take on some of the more mature and senior staff.

She said: 'Some of the staff have been with Hotel Phoenix for a long time, so they are very experienced, which will be a bonus for us.'

Hotel Phoenix has also organised job fairs and invited human resource officers from other hotels to interview employees.

The hotel, a stone's throw from Somerset MRT, was started in 1972 by Mr Tan Chin Tuan, then the chairman of OCBC bank.

In recent years, the 392-room establishment has been achieving occupancy rates of above 90 per cent.

Up to 40 per cent of its clientele are repeat guests. The majority come from Australia, Europe and Indonesia.

OCBC Bank remains mum about redevelopment plans for the hotel and Specialists' Shopping Centre. Its spokesman simply said the bank will hold on to both properties for 'long-term investment' and that a 'major refurbishment' is in the pipeline.

Speculation on the properties - which have a gross floor area of 443,689 sq ft, has been rife recently.

Redevelopment in the area promises to reshape Orchard Road - the buildings will be flanked by Far East Organization's $650-million Orchard Central and Land Lease's $900-million Somerset Central development.

Market watchers note that amended banking rules effectively bar OCBC from tearing down the buildings for redevelopment. However, it can refurbish or retrofit them.

Meanwhile, the hotel's closure will have some immediate impact on the industry: It will tighten the squeeze on hotel rooms here.

Supply is already tight because of a surge in tourist arrivals, which has pushed average room rates past the $200 mark for the first time, and the loss of Hotel Phoenix's 392 rooms will be felt.

However, the STB said it has been working with other authorities on adapting unoccupied state buildings into hotels to address the overall room shortage issue.