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Call to amend National Land Code to curb forgery Print E-mail
Saturday, 17 March 2007

©New Straits Times 

KUALA LUMPUR: Dozens of landowners have had their properties sold by forgers and cannot get them back.

While many of these cases involve undeveloped land, at least one involved a house.

Now, homeowners, businessmen and lawyers are concerned that property rights are being undermined, helped by a controversial Federal Court decision in 2001.

The decision in the case, Adorna Properties Sdn Bhd v Boonsom Boonyanit, protects innocent buyers of such properties, leaving the original owners with little recourse.

Eventually, it could mean title deeds no longer conferred full protection, they said.

At least 85 such cases have come to light in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor alone, said a police source, adding that police were waiting for information on cases in other states.

Separately, the MCA Complaints Department had collated details of 16 cases, which involve properties worth RM20 million in total.

Typically, forged identity cards were used to obtain duplicate title deeds. The forgers then sold the property, sometimes to collaborators first, then to an innocent third party.

"There seems to be an increase in the number of cases," said Datuk Theng Book, the bureauís legal adviser.

The latest case to emerge involved a double-storey house in Puchong, Selangor.

Using a forged identity card, the forgers applied for, and got, a new title deed to the house, which had been left empty for some time.

They then sold the house through a real estate agent, according to Theng.

The owner happened to be at the house when the buyer dropped by. As such, she managed to prevent a full transfer.

Landowners in the other cases were much less fortunate, and many are embroiled in lengthy court battles.

Even restrictions, such as caveats, have not prevented fraudulent transfers. In a 2005 case, a 6.5ha land in Cheras, valued at more than RM10 million, was transferred despite a caveat on the property.

Another case was discovered in 2004 involving a piece of land in Durian Tunggal, Ma- lacca, worth RM1.5 million.

"The rights of landowners are not being protected," Theng said.

The main consequence of the Adorna case had been that forgers were getting away with their crimes, said a Bar Council representative.

"Because of this, you could almost call land title fraud a thriving business," said Roger Tan, who chairs the Conveyancing Practice Committee.

Owners should keep tabs on their properties, especially if left empty and without transfer restrictions, such as charges arising from bank loans.

National House Buyers Association honorary secretary-general Chang Kim Loong said the association wanted the National Land Code to be amended, to reverse the effects of Adorna. "So in cases like this, owners will not risk losing their property as in the Adorna case."

Title transfer shock for owners

Brenda Lim

The joint owners of a piece of land in Fair Park, worth over RM1 million, were shocked to discover that the Land and Mines Department had issued a title for their property to an unknown 32- year-old last year.

"If we havenít sold it, how can it be under someone elseís name?" asked Phuan Kok Wah, 59.

He claimed that he owned one of the 24 lots in the 1.6ha parcel for which he paid some RM18,000 in 1978.

His father and uncle also jointly bought two lots in 1952, said the businessman.

Phuan said his lawyers tried to seek clarification on the matter but were advised by the Land and Mines Department to lodge a police report.

Meanwhile, two other land- owners, manager Wong Wun Pen, 61, and a 43-year- old businessman who wanted to be known as Hong, lodged reports at the Sungai Senam police station on March 10.

In their reports, they maintained that the land transfer to a Tan Su Hean of 18B Jalan Khoo Pek Hua, Fair Park, was conducted without their knowledge and consent. There was no compensation for property trustees nor any court order for the land transfer.

In the late 1940s, the 1.6ha was jointly bought by more than 20 individuals and registered under one land title as it had yet to be subdivided.

There were two trustees appointed for the property, John Aloysius Thivy and Toh Thean Soo, who were now dead, said Phuan.

The alarm was only raised when one of the landowners requested an official check on the property using their quit rent number, only to discover that the sole land title was transferred to Tan in March last year, he said.

Asked if he feared that his land might be stolen from him, he said: "Actually, itís already stolen from us."

He said there were houses and shoplots on the land, but none of the occupants were informed of the land transfer or issued any eviction notice.

The group referred to a report in a Chinese daily on Thursday about syndicates working with land office staff to sell forged land grants in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor Baru, and said it could occur in Perak.

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