The Sheng Siong vs Five Star Tour Treatment by Law

The start to 2014 has unfortunately been marred by these two recent events which the mother of Sheng Siong Supermarket chain CEO was kidnappedwhile on her way to the market as part of her daily routine and the sudden closure of Five Star Tours which potentially left hundreds of stranded customers for the upcoming Lunar New Year and their tour holidays.

Original image from sg.yahoo.com
Suspects of the kidnapping case. Original image from asiaone.com
 
Now although they sound like two separate criminal cases to be compared with, you can generally see the difference that both media and authorities handle and report the case.
 
The Sheng Siong case was quickly handled by the authorities and with swift actions, they were able to arrest the two suspects after the safety of the mother was ensured. For kidnapping, it is a severe criminal act which is worthy of such attention and to deter any future acts in the future for the safety of the public.
 
But the other case although physical harm is not at risk but I do feel that it deserves a stricter legal penalties for what they had done. Five Star Tours is considered a reputable company in it's own niche. Although they do not provide the best competitive tour packages as compared to companies like SA Tours, Chan Brothers or CTC, they have a decent niche in regional transportation specifically to Malaysia. Their sudden closure has brought distraught to the many customers and their staff as they had already made arrangements to go back during the Lunar New Year holidays and for the staff, to not have any pay for the past few months and to lose their livelihood before the new year. The amounts to potentially hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of cheated money from the top management and countless emotional distress of their staff and customers.
And yet they had the audacity to put a simple announcement on their storefront saying that they have closed and all customers should seek assistant from either their insurance company or CASE.
 
WTF! WTH! They knew that they were in a bad situation, why would they still accept the customers' money and business in the last few months? So now that the business have gone down under, they simply push their responsibilities to other parties such as CASE and insurance companies?
 
I had my brush with dishonest local companies and talked to CASE before. CASE is an NGO association which have limited powers when it comes to these situations, they can only draft a letter on your behalf to the company and the company can still choose not to respond. If you look carefully in the fine prints of the contract whenever you purchase something like the case of Five Star Tours, they should be protected by several terms and conditions which states that they are not liable for any lost should there be situations like this occurring.
 
Yes the liquidators will be appointed to sell off all assets that Five Star Tours have which will be limited as they had already sold off their main shop in Chinatown and whatever assets like computer terminals and furniture and fittings will be virtually worthless due to depreciation by wear and tearing and technology advancements.
 
Will the owners of Five Star Tours be liable to pay all creditors and customers back their money? Corporate Law does not think so. All assets and liabilities will only fall on the company itself and unless forensic accountants can prove that any money withdrawn from the company has made it to the owners bank accounts, the money cannot be taken back. Even if it could be traced back all the way, it will take many years for the money to be transferred back to the company to repay their stranded customers, staff and creditors.
 
Both cases that I mentioned today fall under different categories of law infringement, one is criminal and the other is commercial. But they have similar effects on the victims of mental distress. One perpetrator potentially faces the death penalty, the other potentially gets to swagger out and start another company another day.
 
We should really consider revising our laws to protect consumers instead of protecting businesses. It is not very difficult to make business owners more liable for their companies. Banker's Guarantee can be placed as a bond for contingencies like this to cushion the impact.
 
Time to wake up Singapore!

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