In yet another case of foreigners taking advantage of elderly Singaporeans for their own personal gain, Sri Lankan maid Arulampalam Kanthimathy and Indian nationals Kulandaivelu Malayaperumal and Gopal Subramanian have been taken to court by the relatives of a wealthy 86 year-old retired doctor with dementia.

The family of the former doctor have accused the the maid and the 2 foreign workers of enriching themselves with millions of dollars by taking advantage of the mentally ill woman.

Between January and July 2010, the maid and the foreign workers had received close to $5 million dollars in cash, which they claim Dr Freda Paul had given to them willingly for their friendship and care when her relatives allegedly deserted her.

Part of the cash was from the sale of the doctor’s bungalow in Haig Road in October 2009, which was sold for $15.4 million. The doctor’s relatives also want to get back another $500,000 which Dr Paul gave to property agent Parvathi Somu, who handled the bungalow sale.

The suit was filed this year by lawyer and novelist Philip Jeyaretnam, who is also the son of the late politician J.B. Jeyaretnam. Dr Paul’s grandfather and Mr J.B. Jeyaretnam’s grandfather were cousins.

Before her retirement, Dr Paul was a paediatric doctor at the Singapore General Hospital and an associate professor of paediatrics at the University of Singapore. She was diagnosed by a psychiatrist on 15 December 2009 of being incapable of making financial decisions. The family is asking the court to order the return of the gifts and the cash made after that date as she did not have the capacity to understand her actions.

Both foreign workers, 52 year-old Mr Perumal and 54 year-old Mr Gopal said that they befriended the doctor in 2001 when they were working at a construction site near her bungalow. They would come over to help clean her house and kept in touch after the construction ended. Dr Paul lived in the house with her sister Grace, who also suffered from mental illness, and a maid.

The foreign workers both claimed that when Dr Paul had financial difficulties and did not get help from friends or relatives, they bought her food and even lent her sums of $500 and $1,000 from time to time. According to Mr Perumal, when Dr Paul’s sister, Grace, died in June 2009, no relatives turned up to see her. He claims that he was “a great source of comfort” to Dr Paul during that period.

Later in September 2009, Dr Paul gave Mr Gopal power of attorney to sell the house. It was sold in January 2010, from which Mr Gopal paid himself $912,313 or 6% of the sale proceeds.

Mr Gopal also gave $1 million each to Mr Perumal and the maid, which he claims were according to Dr Paul’s wishes. He then bought her a smaller semi-detached house in Ceylon Road, which the doctor moved into along with Mr Perumal.

In June 2010, the maid was added as a joint account holder to Dr Paul’s bank account. Yet only one month later in July 2010, a whopping $2.5 million was transferred out of the joint account, with Mr Perumal and the maid receiving $1 million each. The property agent received the other $500,000. Dr Paul’s relatives are trying to recover these monies from the foreigners.

It would appear that the family are likely to succeed in their suit. Already in April this year, the court revoked Dr Paul’s latest will, which was made in July 2010, in which she left the majority of her estate to Mr Perumal and the maid. $1.7 of the estate was also left to the property agent and 3 organizations and persons in India and Sri Lanka. The court had ruled that she did not have the mental capacity to make the will and accepted an earlier will that she made in 2007 which leaves her assets to the National University of Singapore Faculty of Medicine, which will be used to set up a bursary for female medical students.

Dr Paul is now living in a nursing home. Her maid has left Singapore.

Both Mr Perumal and Mr Gopal – former work pass holders – have since obtained permanent residency. Mr Perumal is married to a Singaporean woman.

The case will be heard at the end of next month.

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