Friday, October 30, 2009

Land Code changes in store to tackle fraud

New Straits Times

PUTRAJAYA: The Attorney-General's Chambers is proposing amendments to the National Land Code to stop cases of forgery and fraudulent land transfer, the Federal Court was told yesterday.

Chambers head of civil division See Mee Chun told this to a five-man bench chaired by Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi, who heard an appeal involving a land transfer dispute.

"We agree that the 2001 Federal Court ruling in Adorna Properties Sdn Bhd v Boonsom Bunyanit, must be revisited and overruled," she said when addressing the bench as friend of the court.

The chambers was invited to participate in the proceeding as disputing parties in the appeal wanted the Federal Court to depart from the 2001 ruling as it was not in line with Section 340 of the Land Code.

See said the ruling had "created havoc" in land transactions.

Zaki asked See why the chambers took time to propose changes to the law.

She replied: "There are several issues that need to be looked into, including compensation to those who had lost their land."

See said the chambers was now looking forward to the ruling to assist them in making the necessary amendments to the law.

The history of the case could be traced to early 1970 when businessman Tan Ying Hong, in the words of the High Court, "mysteriously", became a registered proprietor of a nine-acre plot of land in Kuantan.

A conman who now could not be located, forged a power of attorney from Tan and got the land charged to United Malayan Banking Corporation (now RHB Bank Bhd) to obtain overdraft and loan facilities amounting to RM300,000 in favour of Cini Timber Industries Sdn Bhd.

Cini Timber defaulted payment and the bank started foreclosure proceedings against Tan, the registered land owner.

Tan, represented by counsel T. Mura Raju, filed an application in the High Court in 1985 to seek a declaration that the charges with the bank were of no effect as they were created by a forged power of attorney.

The High Court in 2003 dismissed Tan's application which was affirmed by the Court of Appeal last year.

In May, Tan obtained leave to appeal and the legal question posed was whether an acquirer of registered charge, title or other interest by way of forgery obtains an immediate indefeasible interest or title.

This question of law paved the way for the apex court to review the Adorna case as the issue was similar.

Lawyer Datuk Bastion Vendargon and Ong Siew Wan appeared for the bank while Roger Tan held a watching brief for the Bar Council.

Judgment was reserved.

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