THREE company directors were hauled to court and fined a total of $17,800 yesterday for failing to file their annual returns and hold their annual general meetings (AGMs) on time.
This stiffening of fines - between double and triple of what has been meted out before - comes as Singapore's companies regulator gets tougher on such offences.
Patrick Teng Chee Wai and Mary Lim Mee Lin, directors of Indigoz ICHQS (Asia) Holdings Ltd, and Doreen Lee Guat Beng, a director of Rebecca Pte Ltd, were convicted and sentenced in the State Courts yesterday, for what was described as "two basic statutory requirements" under the Companies Act.
The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) argued for stiffer penalties to deter large companies which have been persistent repeat offenders.
"Transparency is the lifeblood of the market. Directors need to take their statutory duties on annual reporting seriously. Acra will spare no effort to ensure that the business information on our register is accurate and reliable, for the benefit of all market players," said Acra's chief executive, Kenneth Yap, in a statement yesterday.
Acra said there are currently more than 260,000 "live" companies on its register, and that every year, it issues about 10,000 summonses to offenders, 40 per cent of which are repeat offenders.
The typical fine levied out in the past for such offences ranged from $400 to $600 for each charge.
In this instance, Indigoz's Lim was fined $1,200 on each of six charges she was convicted of, making a total fine of $7,200. Indigoz's Teng was fined $1,100 on each of six charges, totalling $6,600.
As for Rebecca's Lee, she was fined $1,000 on each of four charges, making a total of $4,000.
They will have to serve jail time if they default on these fines.
All three directors had pleaded guilty to the charges.
Giving an indication of a continued tough stance on such offences, Acra's senior director of Legal Services and Prosecution Division, Andy Sim, said: "Acra will continue to press for high fines for repeat offenders, especially those involving large companies with multiple breaches. Errant companies can also expect the amount of composition offered by Acra in lieu of prosecution to go up across the board."
This is not the first time Indigoz has run afoul of the law. In 2005, then known as Indigoz Exchange, it breached the Banking Act by issuing stored-value cards without approval from the Monetary Authority of Singapore. The firm was fined $10,000 and went into judicial management with $1 million in debt.
In 2008, it left thousands of customers on its "i-chqs" loyalty programme stranded because restaurants would no longer accept the company's stored-value dining cards.