Asia

Magician retracts guilty plea after earlier admitting role behind false claims for govt scheme

SINGAPORE – An IT instructor turned magician will appear in court again after introducing a twist on the day he was to have been sentenced.

S. Chandran, 38, was in court on Wednesday (April 17) for his alleged role in a scam where more than $1.1 million was paid out through the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme.

Although he had pleaded guilty earlier, he told District Judge Kessler Soh he disagreed with the statement of facts and requested that his guilty plea be retracted.

Chandran, who is unrepresented, also said he is currently seeking treatment at the Institute of Mental Health. He did not reveal his condition.

Judge Soh allowed his request and retracted the guilty plea. Chandran is now expected to claim trial.

He had admitted in court on Nov 23 last year to helping 49 people submit fraudulent claims to PIC scheme between June 2013 and July 2014, and had pleaded guilty to 18 charges under the Income Tax Act involving more than $400,000 in cash payouts and bonuses.

He was to have 40 other charges, related to the remaining amount, taken into consideration during sentencing.

The PIC scheme was introduced to encourage productivity.

It offers tax deductions or cash payouts to companies that have made genuine investments to enhance productivity and innovation, such as by investing in staff training, information technology or automation equipment.

As part of the conditions, businesses must employ at least three local employees before they are eligible for the PIC cash payouts.

Chandran is accused of helping others obtain the monies even though they were not eligible for the scheme.

Some of the applicants allegedly linked to Chandran have already been dealt with in court.

On May 26 last year, eight Singaporeans were ordered to pay between $24,606 and $49,212 as penalties for making false PIC claims. Most were also fined up to $5,000.

They include K Creative owner Kavi Kumar Premkumar, 28, and Saravanan Darmalingam, 35, sole director of VDMSS Engineering.

The pre-trial conference for Chandran’s case will be held on May 9. He is out on a bail of $200,000.

His wife, A.K. Sahtyah J. Alexander Vincent, 31, is also allegedly linked to the scam and her bail stands at $20,000. The pre-trial conference for the case will be held on May 2.

If convicted, Chandran can be jailed for up to five years and fined up to $50,000 for each charge.

He can also be ordered to pay a penalty amounting to four times the amount of cash payouts and bonuses disbursed.

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