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A mutton seller’s fight for justice

 | September 1, 2012

The father of three claims that he has lost 'everything' after being tricked into 'selling' his house by moneylenders.

PETALING JAYA: A Muthukrishnan refuses to give up despite being hit by a series of misfortunes that has left him with close to nothing.

The 44 -year-old father of three is officially considered disabled, having lost his right thumb. He may now also lose the house he calls home.

The tragic tale of Muthukrishnan, a mutton seller from Selayang, centres around a double-storey freehold house in Selayang Baru, Batu Caves, which he bought in July 1997.

He took a loan from Standard Chartered Bank, paying RM1,000 a month to finance the house, then priced at RM200,000 (it is now estimated to cost about RM500,000).

Muthukrishnan’s problems began when he fell into financial hardship and had to take a RM50,000 loan from a licensed moneylender in 2006 to help finance the loan.

“I agreed with the man (money lender) that a caveat be put on my house as one of the terms for the loan. He told me this was so I can’t sell the house,” he said.

The money lender then told him that he had to sign some documents. Muthukrishnan, who is illiterate, did as he was told.

Little did Muthukrishnan know that the money lender had taken advantage of his illiteracy and tricked him.

“Instead of a caveat, it was in fact a Power of Attorney document somewhat similar to a sales and purchase agreement. This I found out much later,” he said.

House has been sold

The following is the sequence of events of how Muthukrishnan slowly discovered that he had been duped by the moneylenders and later “wronged” by the bank, which caused him to “lose everything”.

In December 2008, the collection department of Standard Chartered Bank contacted him, informing him that a third party was asking for the redemption sum of his loan.

“The bank told me that I was selling my house and someone wanted to know the balance needed to pay off the remainder of my loan. I was shocked. I told the officer I wasn’t even thinking of selling it at all,” he said.

On the bank’s advise, Muthukrishnan then lodged a police report a day later, saying that he had no intention to sell his house, a copy of which he handed over to the bank.

However, on July 2010, he suddenly received a cheque of RM1,672.38 from the bank.

“I was confused, why was I getting money, was it a bonus for paying the loans on time? Curious, I went to check. The bank told me: ‘your house has been transferred. And this amount you received was the balance someone paid for you.’”

“I was devastated. Nowhere did I confirm that I would sell the house. I didn’t even know that somebody had secretly ‘helped’ me settle the amount owed to the bank,” he said.

Later, a bank officer told him there was an additional RM10,000 and RM2,506.64 cheques to be paid to him. However, in protest of what happened, Muthukrishnan returned the cheques given to him.

“I said I didn’t want the money… I wasn’t selling my house. How come the bank didn’t tell me or inform me that someone was taking my house away?” he asked.

When the bank informed him that they had acted based on a document handed over to them by the moneylenders, it was then that Muthukrishnan realised that he had been duped.

But Muthukrishnan felt that it was Standard Chartered Bank which was being negligent when it plainly accepted this so-called document despite his police report clearly stating that he was not selling the house.

“Why didn’t they check with me? There was never a letter of any kind sent to me to say that the house was being transferred. At least give me a call right? If I was properly informed or warned, I would have done something, but now it has been done.

“Also, how come a financial institution like Standard Chartered could still collect money from me if they are acting from a document that was signed two years ago. They were collecting my money for one year plus,” he complained.

At his wits end, Muthukrishnan made at least 33 different complaints to seek help and redress.

These included approaching the bank itself, Bank Negara, seven reports with the police, Consumers Tribunal, Bar Council, Money Lenders’ Association, Ministry of Housing and Local Authority and even a politician from MCA. All to no avail.

Beaten and slashed

In the meantime, he was continuously harrassed by the moneylenders asking him to vacate his home which they now claimed belonged to them.

The worst incident happened on April 23, 2011.

“It was about 2am when I was leaving my house for work, a Malay boy stopped me so I slowed down my bike and took off my helmet to talk to him, thinking he needed help.

“Suddenly a white Proton Perdana car rammed into my motorcyle and three men with parangs alighted and started slashing me.

“One of them shouted ‘Why you don’t want to get out from the house?’ I was slashed repeatedly, from head to toe.

“One of them said: ‘Sudah kahwinkah? Minta tangan you’ They starting sawing off my right thumb, but it did not come off. It was so painful, I begged them to chop my hand at one go instead,” he said.

By the end of the ordeal, Muthukrishnan’s right hand was almost severed and his right thumb dismembered, which the assailtants took with them. His left ear was also partially sliced off and in total, he received more than 50 stitches.

He slipped into a coma and only regained consciousness after two weeks. And although doctors managed to re-attach his right hand, he received an OKU (Orang Kurang Upaya) card that certified him to be disabled.

He told FMT that his greatest embarassment was that the newspapers had reported that he was attacked because he owed money to “Alongs” (loansharks).

“My relatives, people at the market and my neighbours now look at us differently. They stare at me and my family. I feel so shy to put my children through that.

“I can’t work anymore, as I can’t handle the knife, and my wife has to sell the mutton for me at the wet market. She even has to help feed me and bring me to the bathroom,” he said.

‘Bank is at fault’

But Muthukrishnan said that he did not mind the ordeal as long as he could get back his house.

“I feel the bank was responsible for making me lose my house. They did not give me a chance to fight for it.

“I don’t need an admission from the bank that they had been negligent. I just need my home, the bank should help me because they messed up,” he said.

He asked how was it possible that his house was sold so easily when he signed the documents without a lawyer present.

“Also, how could the bank reveal my loan information to a third party? I did not tell the moneylenders my account information,” he said.

In addition, Muthukrishnan questioned why the bank had offered to help him finance the costs of a lawyer to help him go to court over this case earlier.

He claimed that the bank said the “free” legal aid would come with the condition that he did not hold the bank accountable for anything.

“You give me a lawyer, surely they would support you right? I don’t believe them… they’re just trying to wash their hands off everything,” he said.

The past few weeks had been especially hard for Muthukrishnan — the moneylenders on Monday had wanted to evict him from the house, serving him a legal notice.

Muthukrishnan managed to obtain the services of lawyer, Kaharuddin Harun, who was now fighting his case.

No detailed response from bank

Kaharuddin said that a earlier court decision had ruled that Muthukrishnan’s re-possession of property case should be heard at the High Court.

However, he remarked that it was “beyond my stretch of imagination” how the moneylender’s lawyers had ignored it and continued to proceeded to seek to possess Muthukrishnan’s property.

“If there is a challenge in the High Court, wherein the purchaser was not bona fide and it was a wrongful transaction, the other side cannot keep trying to evict him. In fact, the title should be null and void, and damages be awarded to my client,” he said.

Meanwhile, Standard Chartered’s head of business communications Sharon Mak said that the bank was unable to provide a detailed response to Muthukrishnan’s case due to strict confidentiality policies set by the bank and Bank Negara.

“We can’t discuss customers issues, we are bound by confidentiality laws…we have to discuss it with the customer. We take customer data very seriously,” she added.

However, she revealed that the bank had communicated with Muthukrishnan several times, verbally and via letters, but the complainant had failed to reply.

“The thing is, from our last communication, we’ve not heard from him. I don’t know why he goes to the media, and expects the media to help him. We have suggested all sort of recommendations for him. He has not come back with a response… since June this year,” she said.

Mak said that the bank would issue a press release to explain the situation soon.

“As much as we empathise with him. He himself approached the moneylender. That’s the issue here. In any case, we will come back to you, we will try to respond to the media soon,” she added.


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