Real estate scam !


Real Estate FraudMastermind members and ‘buyer’ caught in the act of dealing with would-be victim

SHAH ALAM: Two members of a real estate scam syndicate were nabbed by police while in the midst of “negotiating” a deal with a potential victim.

Police arrested the two men at a coffee shop in Jalan SS3/59, Taman Bahagia, Petaling Jaya, around 1.30pm last Friday.

Selangor Commercial Crime Investigation Department chief Asst Comm Chong Mun Phing said the men, part of a real estate syndicate, were meeting with someone on a “business deal” during the operation.

“We arrested the two men, both aged 58. One of them was the mastermind of the syndicate,” she said at the state police headquarters yesterday.

She said the group’s modus operandi was that the mastermind, posing as a senior agent from a reputable real estate firm, would approach his target looking to sell or lease a business property.

“He would then get an accomplice to pose as a buyer, who would pay for the property with a post-dated cheque.

“The mastermind would also receive a post-dated cheque for his commission,” she said.

However, the mastermind would falsify the date and cash out the commission cheque before the original cheque bounces.

The police seized ATM cards, photocopies of ICs and business cards belonging to the mastermind under multiple aliases.

ACP Chong said the syndicate has been linked to at least 18 cheating cases in Selangor involving RM80,200 from their victims, with more similar cases in Kuala Lumpur and Negri Sembilan.

Sources: The Star/Asia News Network

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Genneva gold investment firm slapped with 926 charges


Genneva

KUALA LUMPUR: Six senior officers from controversial gold investment company Genneva Malaysia Sdn Bhd were slapped with more than 900 counts of money laundering, illegal deposit-taking and false advertising involving an alleged sum of RM5.5 billion.

Company director Datuk Phillip Lim Jit Meng, 57, was charged with 246 counts of money laundering allegedly committed at CIMB Bank Bhd and CIMB Islamic Bank Bhd in Jalan Kuchai Lama between January 2011 and last December.

Jit Meng, who represented two companies — Genneva Malaysia and Success Altitude Sdn Bhd—was charged with 222 counts in his capacity for the first company and eight counts for the second company.

Another director, Datuk Tan Liang Keat, 41, was charged with 226 counts. Company advisers Datuk Ng Poh Weng, 63, was charged with 155 counts, Datuk Chin Wai Leong, 37, with 23 counts and Datuk Marcus Yee Yuen Seng, 61, with 17 counts. General manager LimKah Heng, 42, was charged with 16 counts of money laundering.

They allegedly committed the offences at the same time and same place. At the same court, Genneva Malaysia, Jit Meng, Tan and Kah Heng were also charged with receiving deposits from the public without a  licence via a scheme involving gold transactions at CIMB Islamic Bank Bhd, Jalan Kuchai Lama, between Jan 10, 2011, and Oct 1 last year.

Ng was also charged with abetting them.

Deputy public prosecutor Dzulkifli Ahmad proposed that bail be denied as it was a non-bailable offence.

“However, if the court allows bail, the prosecution would like to suggest that each accused be allowed bail of RM5 million. This case involves approximately RM5.5 billion in investments from 35,000 depositors.”

Dzulkifli said the bail amount should reflect the severity of the offences.

In pleading for a lower bail, defence counsel A.S. Dhaliwal said the fixed deposits of all the accused had been frozen by Bank Negara since last year.

He proposed bail be set at RM50,000 for each accused.

Judge Mat Ghani Abdullah allowed bail at RM1 million for each of the accused. He also ordered them to surrender their passports.

The judge fixed an additional RM100,000 in two sureties for offences under the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001.

Ghani allowed the prosecution’s application for a joint trial and fixed April 7 until 24 next year to hear the case.

Dzulkifli informed the court that the prosecution would call about 50 witnesses to the stand.

Datuk Philip Lim Jit Meng.

Its directors Datuk Philip Lim Jit Meng and Datuk Tan Liang Keat faced 246 and 226 counts of money laundering respectively; business advisers Datuk Ng Poh Weng (155), Datuk Marcus Yee Yuean Seng (17), Datuk Chin Wai Leong (23), and general manager Lim Kah Heng (16).

All six claimed trial to the charges.

The company itself, Genneva Malaysia Sdn Bhd, faced 222 counts of money laundering and Success Attitude Sdn Bhd, eight counts.

Four of them, Philip Lim, Tan, Hah Heng and Ng, were also charged under the Banking and Financial institutions Act 1989 with two counts each of accepting deposits without a valid licence via a scheme involving gold transactions.

Earlier, Philip Lim and Tan pleaded not guilty at another Sessions Court to making a false statement in an advertisement on the company’s website, saying its gold trading was in accordance with Islamic law.
Genneva Malaysia Sdn Bhd also faced a similar charge.

The case has been set for mention on Oct 28 and the two were granted bail of RM20,000 each.

Contributed by PUNITHA KUMA NST;  M.MAGESWARI and Maizatul Nazlina The Star/Asia News Netowork

Prevent ATM thieves and cyber crimes on the rise


Banks to arm machines with ink bombs to stain stolen notes

ATM Dye

PETALING JAYA: Thieves who rob automated teller machines will be left with worthless pieces of paper if a Bank Negara proposal is put into place. Dye bombs are to be placed in the ATMs and if anyone tampers with the machines, the “bomb” goes off, leaving the notes stained in red and easily recognisable as stolen money.

Bank Negara, in its guidelines on Dye-Stained Banknotes dated Aug 26, is calling on both banks and Cash in Transit Companies to consider using the currency protection device (CPD) to deter ATM theft.

Local security company Extro Code Sdn Bhd demonstrated yesterday a CPD or dye pack which is already available in the market.

Its technical director Mohd Zaki Sulaiman said that once installed, the dye pack would be triggered when someone tries to break into the ATM.

“The device is like a smoke bomb which releases the ink onto the stacks of banknotes in the ATM,” he said.

Mohd Zaki said there’s no actual explosion but there is some heat when the CPD is triggered.“The actual triggering mechanism is a trade secret,” he added.

He said the ink called Disperse Red 9 was not harmful. He said the ink was imported but the actual CPD was developed and produced locally.

Mohd Zaki declined to reveal the cost of each dye pack and the installation cost. “Who pays for the device will depend on Bank Negara and the banks,” he said.

He said there are four ATM providers in the country but installing the dye-packs in the different machines should not be a problem.

The Bank Negara guidelines state that the CPD would emit a bright coloured dye by smoke, liquid or any other agent to stain the currency in the event ATMs are broken into.

This will enable authorities and the public to easily identify the defaced stolen currency and render them unfit for use.

The guidelines also sets out conditions under which these banknotes will be replaced. Among them:

  • > The ink has to be indelible by water, fuel, gas, bleach and detergent.
  • > It must be traceable to the ATM, to assist police investigations.
  • > It must stain at least 10% of each bank note.
  • > It can be detected and rejected by banknotes authentication machines used by banks such as Cash

Deposit Machines. >It must be non-hazardous and non-toxic.

If banks retrieved the dye-stained currency, they can submit the banknotes to the central bank for assessment.
Tellers will also be trained to detect these banknotes.

The public and retailers will be advised not to accept dye-stained banknotes as they are likely to be stolen.

These measure, Bank Negara believes, will reduce ATM robberies.

In the United States, banks have dye bombs in vaults and any unauthorised person who tries to remove any money will trigger the bomb, leaving all the money – and the robber – stained in ink.

Related stories:
9000 machines nationwide to have CPD
Cops welcome currency protection device proposal

Cyber crimes on the rise – millions of ringgit being lost annually to scams

Public awareness: (From left) Ambank deputy managing director Datuk Mohamed Azmi Mahmood, Khalid and AmIslamic Bank Berhad CEO Datuk Mahdi Morad at the launch of the Scam Alert campaign in Bukit Aman. 
Public awareness: (From left) Ambank deputy managing director Datuk Mohamed Azmi Mahmood, Khalid and AmIslamic Bank Berhad CEO Datuk Mahdi Morad at the launch of the Scam Alert campaign in Bukit Aman 

KUALA LUMPUR: Fraud and cyber crimes in the country have risen unchecked due to the lack of public awareness, while victims are hesitant to report the crime, the police said.

Millions of ringgit have been lost annually to crimes like sms scams and parcel scams, which have mostly gone unnoticed in the public eye.

In a bid to stop such crimes, the police has launched an awareness initiative on the various types of scams in the country.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the initiative, under the National Blue Ocean Strategy, comprised cooperation with the Association of Banks in Malaysia (ABM) and the Association of Islamic Banking Institutions Malaysia (AIBIM).

The public would be informed and educated on the different types of fraud and cyber crime scams being used by today’s criminals.

“We are posting a list of the various methods and modus operandi used in these scams at our official police website at http://www.rmp.gov.my.

“This will be linked to the websites of all banks in the country so that anyone can easily access the information which will be regularly updated,” he said after launching the initiative at Bukit Aman yesterday.

Khalid said RM98.6mil in losses was recorded last year in cases involving cyber crimes, including Internet banking fraud as well as sms and parcel scams.

“So far this year, such losses have reached RM80.7mil, which shows that such cases and losses are increasing,” he said.

He added that losses to sms scams had jumped from RM5.8mil last year to RM39.2mil so far this year.

- The Star/Asia News Network

Fears of gangland wars


Shooting incidents spark fears of gangland war 

GEORGE TOWN: The three shooting incidents, including the assassination of a 37-year-old scrap dealer believed to be associated with Gang 36, which occurred over a span of 24 hours, has spawned speculation of a gangland war.

K. Veerappan was shot when he stopped the BMW 530i he was driving near a traffic light in Anson Road at 11.50am on Thursday.

It bore the registration number WVK 3636, which was believed to symbolise the gang’s number.

A motorcyclist rode up next to the car and the pillion rider whipped out a pistol and fired 14 shots, 10 of which hit his neck, cheek and abdomen.

His body was found slumped and his white shirt drenched with his blood.

The driver’s seat side window was shattered by the gunshots.

George Town OCPD Asst Comm Gan Kong Meng said Veerappan had had three previous drug records, adding that the car he was driving belonged to his 38-year-old friend who lives in Lebuh Macallum.

“Forensic policemen recovered 14 9mm-calibre bullet casings at the scene. Two machetes wrapped in newspaper were found in the car’s rear passenger seat,” ACP Gan said.

Before Veerappan’s shooting, a gunman fired at least six shots at a businessman’s bungalow in Jalan Utama. No one was injured in the 1.15am incident which is believed to be a triad’s warning to the businessman.

Only his 29-year old son, his daughter-in-law and a maid were at home at the time of the incident.

ACP Gan said the businessman, in his 60s, who is presently abroad, had lodged a police report last month after receiving an extortion letter containing six bullets.

“His daughter-in-law and maid found glass fragments from the window on the floor and bullet marks on the walls.

“Based on the CCTV footage, the gunman fired randomly from outside the house,” he said.

ACP Gan said the businessman had also received a text message in Chinese demanding that he deposit money into a local bank account.

“We are checking the mobile phone number from which the SMS was sent and also the bank account which has since been frozen.

“We are investigating the case under Section 39 of the Firearms Act and also Section 506 of the Penal Code for criminal intimidation,” he said, adding that police had not ruled out the possibility that the case could be gang-related.

The third shooting occurred in front of an entertainment outlet in Jalan Datuk Keramat where a 43-year-old bouncer was hit in the left thigh at 12.30am yesterday.

A gunman fired seven shots but only one hit the victim nicknamed Too Pek (Stupid in Hokkien).

Pg Hosp_Too Pek
Too Pek being taken for treatment at the Penang Hospital.

The bouncer is believed to be one of the top leaders of the Si Lian (Four Tyres) also known as the 04 Gang.

It was learnt that Too Pek had just gotten out from his BMW when the unidentified assailant on a motorcycle shot him.

“Despite being hit, he managed to make his way into the outlet to seek help from his friends. He was later sent to the Penang Hospital where he received outpatient treatment.

“Two foreign cleaners were questioned by the police after they were spotted sweeping up the seven bullet casings which were later recovered from a dustbin,” said a source.

Gangland rivalry linked to the drug trade is also believed to be behind three other shootings – in Parit Buntar, Perak; Batu Kawan, Penang; and Air Keroh, Malacca.

A factory van driver N. Jeevandran, 26 was gunned down while leaving his house for work at Taman Seri Semarak, Parit Buntar on July 31. He had five previous criminal records and was was detained under the Restricted Residence Enactment until the Emergency Ordinance was repealed in 2011.

On May 12, S. Kannan, 37, and G. Suresh, 28, were killed and two others were seriously injured in a shooting at the Bukit Tambun traffic-light junction. They had just left a relative’s wedding when two assailants on a motorcycle pulled up to the vehicle and fired multiple shots at about 10.30pm. Both deceased had criminal records.

Police believe the killings could be related to the shooting of S. Sara-vanan, 39, at Air Keroh in February.
Saravanan, who had travelled from Butterworth to stand trial for a robbery case, was gunned down moments after leaving the courthouse.

- The Star contributed to this story

Related stories:

Most shootings tied to gangland turf war
Gang 36 one of the most feared in the nation
Gang wars spill out into the open

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Crime is very real in everyday situations – cop robbed of his mobile phone!


TOCrime1DAY, crime is happening not only in back alleys or in the dark but under broad daylight and even at one’s doorstep.

Concerns that the crime rate is on the rise are not unfounded. It is certainly no longer a perception. Now, it doesn’t pay to be an early bird. The early bird may not get the worm, but trouble.

The same goes for the night owls as trouble may await them. It is not advisable to go out after 9pm unless it is an emergency.

Gone are the days where teenagers could run errands safely for their parents.

A report about a policeman being robbed of his mobile phone “Robber hits cop on the head and makes off with smartphone” (The Star, July 27) is also disturbing.- see below

I feel our police force should be given refresher training to beef up their defence skills.

In case of being attacked, they should be able to fight off their attackers even if they are armed.

If the cops are not able to ward off the attackers, what about us, the ordinary laymen on the street, who depend on them to protect and safeguard us.

Cops who are obese, for example, should be given top priority to attend such courses. They should undergo a diet and exercise regimen to trim down their waistline.

In the end, they should be able to chase after the criminals without running out of breath.

Being fit is not only good for them but also for those who care for them. Remember, health is wealth.

Malaysia is truly a land of opportunity for those who work hard to earn their living the legal way and also for those with evil intentions.

Much needs to be done to tackle crime. In the meantime, always be alert and take the necessary precautions to avoid any untoward incident.

TAKE CARE Putrajaya]

Robber hits cop on the head and makes off with smartphone

KUALA LUMPUR: A policeman suffered a huge gash on his head after an armed robber hit him with a metal rod and stole his smartphone.

The incident occurred when the policeman, who is in his 20s, was having supper at a restaurant at Setapak yesterday.

Sentul OCPD Asst Comm Zakaria Pagam said the suspect, armed with the metal rod, had attacked the off-duty policeman at around 2am.

“The constable is attached to the Sentul Motorcycle Patrol Unit. He was not in uniform during the incident,” he told reporters at the City police buka puasa function in Putrajaya yesterday.

He said the suspect had hit the policeman with the rod before demanding that he hand over his smartphone.
“When the policeman refused, the suspect hit him on the head again. The policeman then got into a scuffle with the suspect before being overpowered,” he said.

ACP Zakaria said the suspect ran off with the smartphone towards an accomplice waiting nearby on a motorcycle.

“The policeman was rushed to Hospital Kuala Lumpur where he received more than 20 stitches for the gash on his head,” he said, adding that the case was being investigated as causing hurt in an armed robbery.

He urged anyone with information on the case to contact the police hotline at 03-2115 9999 or visit the nearest police station.

By AUSTIN CAMOENS – The Star/Asia News Network

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Malaysian election: Relooking ideals of democracy, How to casting Your Vote?


The workings of electoral democracy face many challenges that separate the democracy’s virtues from the sordid realities that need to be admitted and rectified.

Transformation Malaysia

IN a democracy, the government must be representative of the people and answerable, responsible and accountable to the wishes of society. Elections are one aspect of this accountability.

Unfortunately, the electoral exercise in all democracies is so colossal, involves so many details, so many people (240,000 workers for the forthcoming elections) and so much money (RM400mil) that it is extremely vulnerable to manipulation and malpractices.

Despite democracy’s undoubted virtues, the sordid realities of the electoral exercise need to be noted and rectified.

A genuinely democratic electoral process must possess the following salient features.

First, there must be in existence constitutional provisions for the existence, composition and tenure of legislative assemblies. These are provided for in detail in our federal and state constitutions.

Second, the electoral system must translate votes into parliamentary seats.

Two main types of electoral systems exist – the simple plurality system and the system of proportional representation. In the simple plurality system, the candidate obtaining the most votes is declared elected.

There is no requirement that he must obtain more than 50% of the votes polled. In a three-cornered contest, the “winner” may capture the seat with only a minority of the votes.

In addition to non-representative outcomes in individual constituencies, the simple plurality system permits a massive disparity at the national level between the percentage of votes polled and the percentage of parliamentary seats won.

For example in 2004, Barisan Nasional won 63.9% of the popular vote but 90.4% of the Dewan Rakyat seats. In Britain in the 70s, the victorious Labour party won only 37% of the popular vote but a working majority in Parliament.

In contrast, in the proportional representation system, parliamentary seats are given to parties in proportion to the percentage of popular votes obtained by them.

The positive outcome is that the legislature is truly representative.

But the negative feature of a proportional representation system is that a large number of political parties join the fray and none command a firm majority in the legislature. Instability, frequent change of government and gridlock result.

Third, democracy requires that a fair and impartial machinery for delineating and revising electoral constituencies must be in place.

Every citizen’s vote must carry equal weight. This means that in principle, all constituencies must be approximately equal in population size.

Unfortunately, if this ideal were to be strictly followed, all constituencies in rural areas, in hilly terrains as in Pahang, and in territorially large but thinly populated states as in Sabah and Sarawak will have very few MPs.

The Constitution in 1957, therefore, allowed a measure of weightage to be given to rural constituencies. Unfortunately, how much weightage may be given is no where specified and wide disparities exist.

The largest parliamentary constituency is Kapar, Selangor, with 144,369 voters; the smallest is Putrajaya with 15,355 voters – i.e. 9.4 times smaller. In Perak, the largest is Gopeng with 97,243 electors; the smallest is Padang Rengas with 28,572 – a difference of 3.4.

Fourth, a fair and impartial machinery for drawing up an electoral register is necessary.

In Malaysia, it is the job of the Election Commission to draw up the electoral register impartially, to ensure that no one is denied the right to vote, that there are no phantom voters or persons who have died, that no non-citizens are allowed to register, that voters satisfy the requirement of residence in their constituency and that no one registers in more than one electoral district.

Fifth, the law must permit universal adult franchise (right to vote). Regrettably, our voting age (21 on the date of registration) is very high. Consequently, nearly 55% of the population is rendered ineligible to vote. We need to reduce this proportion. There is also no automatic registration.

Many citizens are apathetic and do not register as voters. Some who do fail to show up on election day because voting is not compulsory.

We have 13.3 million registered voters who constitute only 46% of our population of 28.9 million.

If one were to deduct those who do not show up, this leaves only 34.5% of the population that participates in democracy’s showcase event! We must find ways to increase this proportion.

Sixth, there must be legal rules for the eligibility of candidates and for the nomination of contestants. These exist in detail.

Seventh, there must be rules about the limits on the powers of caretaker governments. In the case of PP v Mohd Amin Razali (2002), the court provided some guidance. We could also emulate conventions from the Common­wealth.

Eighth, legal and conventional rules exist for the conduct of election campaigns, duration of the campaign period and rights of political parties to reach out to the electorate. Ninth, election expenses are controlled so that the electoral exercise does not degenerate into a battle of cheque books.

In Malaysia, the law puts a ceiling on the expenditure by individual candidates (RM100,000 for state and RM200,000 for federal seats) and imposes a duty to maintain a record of contributions and filing of audited statements of expenditure.

However, there is no control on what political parties may spend or receive by way of donation.

Tenth, the Constitution confers safeguards for freedom of speech, assembly and association.

In many democratic countries, there are provisions for equal access to the media for all contestants. In Malaysia, media monopoly is a serious problem.

The Internet is, however, open to everyone and provides an alternative, though not always reliable, source of information.

In sum, though democracy is the best form of government, there can be no denying that behind the folklore of electoral democracy stand many myths and many utilitarian compromises. Every where in the world electoral reform is being called for. Unfortunately, there are no quick-fix, simple solutions.

For this GE, many improvements, like extension of postal votes to those abroad and use of indelible ink, speak well of the recognition of the need for reform. But the challenges are many and, in some cases, fundamental.

What one can hope for is that as in the past our electoral exercise will remain peaceful and that its result will provide a strong and stable government to lead us forward.

Reflecting On The Law by SHAD SALEEM FARUQI
> Shad Saleem Faruqi is Emeritus Professor of Law at UiTM

How to casting Your Vote?

Check & Print out:
Check on-line first (http://daftarj.spr.gov.my/semakpru13.aspx) and print out your details before going to the voting center. You may be able to by-pass the Barung counter since you have a printout and know where to go and thus short cut your time. 

How to hold your ballot paper?How to hold ballot paper

Shaken indelible ink: 
Failure to shake the bottles vigorously has caused the ink used for polling to be washed off easily, the Election Commission clarified, referring to several cases during advance voting which are causing a stir in the social media. The EC gave assurance that those who have cast their ballots will not vote again on Sunday. Failure to shake the bottles vigorously has caused the ink used for polling to be washed off easily, the Election Commission clarified, referring to several cases during advance voting which are causing a stir in the social media. The EC gave assurance that those who have cast their ballots will not vote again on Sunday.

Why should we be afraid of Hudud Law? (Must Watch)?

Anwar Ibrahim at Han Chiang Hig

 

Dressing stature


Chinese new president visits Tanzania

Elegant couple: China’s President Xi Jinping and wife Peng disembarking from a plane on arrival at Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, recently for a two-day visit. – EPA

JUST when you think there are no new personalities projected into the spotlight, comes the debut of the First Lady of China (Peng Liyuan) last week. Her first foreign engagement was accompanying the president on an official visit to Russia and a few countries in Africa.

When the plane doors opened, people saw a modern elegant lady, unlike her predecessors.

She took the husband’s arm when walking down the stairs from the plane instead of walking behind holding the rails. Most unconventional.

Everyone knows that no matter how independent we are, we need to hold on to our man for support when we are navigating steps on high heels. Especially where there is an audience and we cannot afford to trip.

It took a couple of days before people could figure out what “branded” items she was wearing. The bag she was carrying looked nice but did not have the conspicuous logos of a luxury brand that one can spot from a distance.

Throughout the whole trip, there was only a pair of modest pearl earrings. There were no necklaces, strings of chunky pearls or big and flashy stones.

It was just so refreshing. Now wonder there was incessant news about her in the foreign and domestic media in China.

Given her stature, she did not need to dress to scream, “look at me”. People will be looking and scrutinising her. It reminds me somewhat of Adele. If you have a great voice, you can just sing. You don’t need all the massive accompaniments.

When you are in London or Paris, the crowd who buy designer bags like they are free, without needing to think long and hard over which one to buy, are from China. Here is now someone who has shown that you can look elegant, fashionable and well put together without the need to carry expensive brand names.

I can understand the need to dress up. When one is a young up-and-coming executive, one has to drive a nicer car and carry some expensive branded items to show either taste or success. But as we progress in life, the need to create an impression dissipates.

I like this interesting story about dressing and change in a CEO interview. To change the work culture and have people take pride in their work, the new CEO initiated a “dress like you are attending a wedding” campaign as his first project.

His message was simple. Be bothered to dress up for work because it is important. Let your dressing be a reflection of your professional attitude. When you are a slob, you will be sloppy.

Have you noticed the ladies selling snacks on the Shinkansen? Their hair tied up neatly and makeup immaculate. Uniform is neat, tidy and clean. They wear black cord shoes with heels. They might be pushing a trolley and selling snacks but they are professional and polite. They have their processes. Before they leave the compartment, they bow and say goodbye.

Have you seen the lady who welcomes you as you drive into the shopping centre in Seoul? She is in a black formal looking suit, looking immaculate and welcoming you as you drive into the car park. She does this with pride, like welcoming a VIP. I thought it was too much.

We did try once to dress with the times. During the initial dot-com days, we thought we could dress casual and carry a backpack. After the dot-com craze fizzled out, so did our dressing. It was very difficult to go into a boardroom looking like you are better suited for a different place. You can dress what you like at your office but when you are with clients or in their office, you need to dress suitably so that clothes are not the distraction or the talking point.

As a consultant, I always felt the need to dress well enough to look professional and carry the right demeanour to inspire confidence. Somehow, in the early days of a client relationship, casual just don’t cut it.

It is not right to judge someone by their dressing. However there are many studies that show the impact that dressing and appearance has on the first impression.

Coming back to Peng Liyuan. She impressed on the world stage with good taste, projecting a unique personal style. Let’s hope she is able to sustain the excellent dress sense by not having to wear chunky and expensive branded items.

TAKE ON CHANGE
By JOAN HOI 

Joan Hoi is the author of Take on Change. She is hoping that the trend for “no brand” high fashion has been sparked!

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A victory for patients & generic drugmakers vs Novartis in landmark patent case


The Indian Supreme Court’s ruling that only genuinely new inventions should be granted patents means that medicines can still be affordable.

Image

The front office of Novartis in Mumbai, India, Monday, after India’s Supreme Court rejected drug maker’s attempt to patent a new version of a cancer drug Glivec. 

PATIENTS around the world who look to India for low-cost medicines to treat their ailments heaved a sigh of relief last week when the Indian Supreme Court turned down a claim for a patent for a cancer drug.

This means that drug companies in India can continue to produce generic versions of the same drug, Glivec or Gleevec, at a much lower price, thus making it affordable to thousands more cancer patients.

Glivec, produced by the Swiss-based company Norvartis, can cost a patient up to US$70,000 (RM217,000) for a year of treatment, whereas the generic versions of the same medicine made by Indian companies cost around US$2,500 (RM7,750). The drug is used to treat some forms of leukaemia as well as a rare type of stomach cancer.

The Supreme Court decision also seems to open the road for patents not to be granted for more medicines, since it confirmed that only drugs that are genuinely a new invention can be granted patents.

When a patent is granted to a company for a drug, other companies are not permitted to produce generic versions of the medicine for a period of 20 years or so.

The monopoly given to the patent holder enables it to charge high prices since there is a lack of competition.

Many or even most patients are unable to buy the medicines, giving rise to frustration and despair especially when their lives are at stake.

Some companies whose patents are about to expire apply for a new patent for the same drug after changing the composition slightly or changing the form of the drug.

The “new” drug is often not a new invention, but only a minor modification that is made with the aim of having the patent renewed for another period. This practice is popularly termed “evergreening” of the patent.

An extension of the patent term means that the company continues to enjoy the monopoly and high prices, which continue to be out of reach to many patients.

Although governments are obliged to have laws allowing for patents to be given for inventions under the World Trade Organisation’s TRIPS agreement, each country is allowed to set its own definition and standards for what is an invention.

The Supreme Court decision confirms that the Indian patent authorities exercised their powers lawfully and properly when they rejected the patent application for Gleevec on the ground that the medicine was not a new invention.

Novartis had challenged the interpretation given by the Indian Patent Office to Section 3 (d) of the Indian Patents Act that seeks to prevent the grant of patents for non-inventive new forms of known medicines.

The Novartis application had claimed a patent for a new salt form (imatinib mesylate), a medicine for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukaemia, sold under the brand name Gleevec (or Glivec in other countries).

The Indian patent office had rejected the patent application on the ground that the claimed new form was anticipated in an earlier US patent of 1996 for the compound imatinib and that the new form did not enhance the therapeutic efficacy of the drug. The decision was upheld by the Indian Patents Appellate Board.

The legal challenge from Novartis had caused anxiety among patients groups, governments of developing countries and some international organisations in view of the possible negative implications for access to affordable medicines if the Norvatis petition succeeded.

Most developing countries rely on Indian generic drug companies for the supply of low-priced medicines for many diseases.
A weakening of the interpretation or use of Section 3 (d) would have enabled multinational drug companies to extend their patent monopolies based on “evergreening” or “trivial” incremental improvements which could delay the supply of generic medicines for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, cancer and other diseases.

The decision by the Indian Supreme Court is thus of major significance not only for India but for patients and health authorities in the developing countries.

In interpreting Section 3 (d), the Supreme Court observed that this section was introduced in the 2005 amendment to the Patents Act to ensure that while India allowed product patents on medicines in accordance with its WTO obligations, it did not compromise public health through “evergreening” of pharmaceutical patents.

The court hence took into account the concerns about the impact of the TRIPS agreement on public health and on the development of an indigenous pharmaceutical industry.

Moreover, it considered the implications of the Novartis case for the availability of essential medicines at affordable prices globally.

The court decision reproduced two letters from Dr Jim Yong Kim, the former director of the Department of HIV/AIDS at the World Health Organisation (current president of the World Bank) and from UNAIDS to the Indian health minister expressing their concerns relating to the continuous availability of affordable Indian generic drugs in other developing countries.

Thus, the Supreme Court decision has implications beyond India. It upholds the high standards by which drug patent applications can be processed. While genuinely new inventions are granted patents, drugs that are not really new need not.

The implication is that Indian generic companies can be expected to produce many more medicines in future, and continue their reputation as the “pharmacy of the developing countries”.

It is also heartening that the court decision reaffirms the priority for concerns for the patients’ right to receive treatment at more affordable prices.

The court decision is also likely to spark interest among other developing countries about the Indian patent law and the policies guiding it. Developing countries can learn from the Indian approach of balancing patents and public health.

Global Trends
By MARTIN KHOR

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Beware of rogue lawyers in Malaysian legal system


They boast of connections with retired judges and being able to fix cases

KUALA LUMPUR: A group of lawyers is bringing disrepute to the Malaysian legal system with claims of being able to “fix” commercial cases.

They are known as the “Dream Team” in the circle of retired gentlemen judges because these lawyers “play ball” with their “coach”, a retired judge, to win big.

Among litigation lawyers, they are referred to as the “syndicate” or “cartel”.

Malaysian Bar president Lim Chee Wee confirmed their existence.

“We are aware of a syndicate of rogue lawyers who boast of mastering the art of influence and inducement outside the courtroom in addition to advocacy in the courtroom,” he said.  “Mercifully, it’s a small group.”

He added that the commercial cases they boast of being able to influence include disputes over business contracts and family property and company disputes between shareholders and directors which usually involve millions of ringgit.

Lim, however, stressed: “The vast majority of judges and lawyers are honest, and it is only a few rotten apples who ruin the reputation of the rest.”

He was also doubtful about many of the claims they made, suggesting that “most of their boasts might be mere puffery to trick clients into paying more in legal fees”.

But for some years now, litigation lawyers have been indignant about “the cartel” and the connections they see between some retired judges and lawyers.

They say a retired judge acts as puppet master and a former court officer at times comes in as facilitator.

Litigation lawyers interviewed on the modus operandi of the syndicate gave these scenarios:

> A client contacts a retired judge who then gets in touch with a serving judge.

> While in office, the former court officer would arrange for access to certain judges.

> The former court officer takes advantage of the practice of registrars writing up case notes for appellate judges by suggesting how to skew them.

Asked what action the Bar Council had taken, Lim said it had told Tun Zaki Azmi when he was Chief Justice and his successor Tun Arifin Zakaria of reports that “a few judges received phone calls from retired judge(s) regarding pending cases, allegedly with a view to influencing their decision or grounds, and naturally these right-thinking judges found such approaches to be offensive.”

“The Chief Justices have taken action and I am not aware of any more similar incidents.”

Lim said he had also raised with the Chief Justice and President of the Court of Appeal the Bar’s concern over reports that a few rogue lawyers may be influencing registrars who prepare case notes/briefs for appellate judges “with the view of having the contents lean in their favour”.

When contacted, a sitting judge said: “The solution is for all appellate judges to carefully read the written submissions of both counsel and not rely on the case notes.”

Lim said that following media coverage of corruption in the legal system, the council has been receiving information from Bar members and the public.

“We will review the information and if there is prima facie evidence, we will lodge a complaint with MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission).”

Lim added: “We are also working closely with MACC to investigate corruption among lawyers who bribe officers/employees of clients to obtain legal work. This is perceived as a rampant practice at financial institutions.

“We hope that the Association of Banks Malaysia will consider assisting MACC on this.”

He urged anyone with any information on the who, what, when and where of corruption to write to president@malaysianbar.org.my or contact +603 2050 2013.

By SHAILA KOSHY koshy@thestar.com.my
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Who invented bank deposit insurance?


I LOVE the Internet. The best Christmas present I got last year was a preview of a forthcoming book by a banker/historian in Boston. He sent me electronically his PhD thesis, a piece of masterly detective work on how ideas travel over time and space, become adopted successfully in a different place, and then comes back to where they started.

Bank ClosuresDr Frederic Grant Jr‘s forthcoming book uncovered how the US bank deposit insurance system has its root in ideas borrowed from Canton (Guangdong province in southern China) of the 19th century. The origins of the US deposit insurance scheme arose from the 1828 The Safety Fund statute of the State of New York, drafted by a legislator named Joshua Forman.

In those days, if the state-authorised banks failed, the state would have to pay for their failure. Forman borrowed the idea from Canton that those authorised for privileged trade (in banks the privilege of private currency issue) should be responsible for their own debts.

The success of the New York Safety Fund inspired the adoption of similar schemes by 13 other American states. In 1933, the Banking Act of 1933 created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC), following the failure of many banks across the US. This idea of a national deposit insurance scheme has been adopted by many countries around the world, and is currently being considered in China.

How did Forman get the idea about the Canton Guaranty Scheme? Apparently, New York was already the major port for US-China trade and the scheme was familiar to New York businessmen.

How the Canton system evolved

It all came about because the Qing dynasty official merchants, namely merchant houses (or hongs) authorised by Beijing to conduct foreign trade, often require trade credit to conduct business with foreigners in Canton. If these traders defaulted on their loans, the foreigners threatened to take action on the weak Qing dynasty. Hence, in order to prevent individual merchant failure, the Qing government used a collective responsibility method evolved by the Manchu court in Beijing that ensured that those authorised to benefit from the foreign trade also collectively guaranteed each other’s trade debt, and a premium was paid yearly into a fund to pay off any individual failure.

The Qing government solved the problem of defaults by imposing collective responsibility everyone was responsible for the group’s debt. The good news is that the group as a whole made sure that no member got into trouble, engaging in what is today called “peer surveillance”. The bad news is that with collective guarantee, the smaller traders have an incentive to take higher risks, creating moral hazard private gain at collective loss. Moreover, as history showed, if trade was really bad, more traders failed and since the Qing government also borrowed or taxed the accumulated fund regularly, there were not enough money in the fund to settle all debts. Eventually the Canton Guaranty Fund also failed.

Corruption and misappropriation of fund was to blame, but the main culprit remained what Grant called “the perennial dilemma of inadequate capital and lack of access to affordable credit” for smaller hongs.

These problems plagued all deposit insurance schemes, even today. Large banks loath to support deposit insurance because they pay a larger share of the premium than smaller banks. Small banks enjoy the group insurance, but are more prone to failure because they were more likely to take more risks, which meant that there should be supervision to make sure that these riskier players do not destroy the group as a whole.

Deposit insurance worked very well in the United States, as the FDIC not only participated in supervision of the insured banks, but also engaged actively as the mortuary of failed banks. In the recent crisis, from 2009 to currently, the FDIC smoothly managed the exit of over 400 banks in the United States, without disruption to the system as a whole. But this time round, it was the failure of the shadow banks and larger banks that created the problem. Yes, smaller banks failed, but they did not take down the whole system because deposit insurance prevented large-scale bank runs at the retail level.

The time has come for China to adopt a formal deposit insurance scheme. There are at least three good reasons why it should occur. The first is that deposit insurance will help stop retail bank panic, exactly the reason for the Canton Guaranty Fund. The second is that there must be an orderly exit mechanism for financial institution failure. Some argue that a deposit insurance would duplicate supervision. Today we realise why we have two kidneys instead of one we need redundancy in the system, in case one fails.

The third, based on my personal experience, is that regulators who are good at daily operations may not always be very good at conducting the messy operations of restructuring failed banks. This is a very complicated process that needs strong skills, good bankruptcy laws and more investment banking skills than regulation. Deposit insurance is specialised work and needs specialised skills.

As Grant rightly said, the historical record of the Canton Guaranty System offers a number of valuable lessons to the modern world. “These include (1) that the tax that supports a guaranty fund must be based on measured risk of loss; (2) that the fund and its insureds must be made subject to strong independent supervision; (3) that laws enacted to avoid risk contingencies must be enforced; and (4) that both corruption and the diversion of fund assets must be strictly prohibited.”

The trouble with history is that we never seem to learn from history.

THINK ASIAN
BY ANDREW SHENG

> Tan Sri Andrew Sheng is president of the Fung Global Institute. 

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