The case of William Lim Tien Hou v Ling Kok Hua [2023] SGHC 18: Dealing with competing claims over property which is the subject matter of fraud 案件:如何处理涉及欺诈的财产的竞争索赔(新加坡近期案例分析)

16 February 2023|In Legal Updates

In the recent case of William Lim Tien Hou v Ling Kok Hua [2023] SGHC 18, a scammer gained access to a compromised Facebook account belonging to the respondent’s former colleague and convinced the respondent to help with purchasing Bitcoin from the appellant. The scammer duped the respondent into making two transactions of $1 each to a bank account belonging to the appellant, but later altered the sum of one of the transactions from $1 to $10,000. Eventually, the appellant received a total of $10,001 (the “Money”) from the respondent, believing that such amount constituted payment for the Bitcoin he sold via an online trading platform to a third party.
在最近的 William Lim Tien Hou v Ling Kok Hua [2023] SGHC 18 的新加坡案件中,一名诈骗者盗用了属于被上诉人的前同事的Facebook(脸书)帐户,并用其盗用的身份说服被上诉人协助其向上诉人购买比特币。诈骗者要求被上诉人对上诉人的银行账户进行转账汇款,被上诉人在不知情的状况下确实根据诈骗者的要求将两笔 小额款项(每笔1新元)汇入上诉人的银行账户。之后,诈骗者将其中一笔交易的金额从 $1篡改成 $10,000。最终,上诉人在其银行账户里收到来自被上诉人汇入的总计 $10,001的款项(“相关争议款项”),并且上诉人相信相关争议款项确实是自己通过在线交易平台向第三方出售比特币所应当获得的对价支付。

Both the appellant and respondent laid claim to the Money. A disposal inquiry was held to determine how the Money should be distributed.

The Singapore High Court (the “Court”) noted that both parties were in lawful possession of the Money and it was unclear who had the stronger title to or interest in the Money. This was because the Money originated from the respondent’s bank account and was fraudulently transferred, and the appellant had received the Money in a legitimate contractual transaction.

Following an analysis of the relevant provisions in the Criminal Procedure Code 2010 governing the return of seized property, the Court eventually ruled that the Money should be returned to the person from whom it was seized, being the appellant.

The Court further held that a disposal inquiry is intended to be an inexpensive and expeditious manner of distributing items and is not meant to be conclusive as to title. The court in the disposal inquiry process is not concerned with examining whether full rights have been established at civil law, and does not necessarily delve into whether contracts are valid or property rights are properly created or transferred. Parties can commence separate civil proceedings to assert their rights.

Although cryptocurrency activity may be regarded as risky and perhaps forbidden from the perspective of financial and consumer regulation, a dealer or trader in cryptocurrency is not to be treated any differently from any other owner of a valuable asset in determining whether he/she has lawful possession of the relevant property in question. The Court noted that whether or not a cryptocurrency, as opposed to its monetary proceeds, is property is a question left to be decided at the relevant time.

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