Accused did not tell children he had not paid former lawyer
Man on trial for murder of his former lawyer's wife did not tell his children he had not paid off his debt. Son says:
He did not tell his children that he had not paid his former lawyer's legal fees.
Instead, taxi driver Govindasamy Nallaiah, now 70, kept his two adult children in the dark even though they were his guarantors for the money he owed lawyer Rengarajoo Rengasamy Balasamy.
With interest, the fee had risen to $38,000.
On the third day of Govindasamy's murder trial yesterday, the court heard that his second child, former Navy combat specialist Ramanathan Govindasamy, found out only in 2008 that his father had made no payments - six years after the lawyer represented the cabby in a corruption trial.
His first child, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officer Letchmi Ghandi Govindasamy, found out about it when she received a legal letter delivered by hand to her home in 2010.
Mr Ramanathan said he scolded his father for getting him into the mess.
He said: "He told me not to worry and he promised that he would get me out of this mess by Aug 10, 2011. He did not tell me what he was going to do but just said he would find a way."
That morning, the cabby went to the lawyer's firm, B Rengarajoo & Associates, on the sixth storey of Afro-Asia Building at Robinson Road, to settle a dispute over the debt.
When both parties could not come to an agreement, he allegedly killed Mr Rengarajoo's wife, Madam Low Foong Meng, 56.
Mr Ramanathan, who took the stand yesterday, said that his father used to be a Customs officer but faced corruption charges in 2002 and was sentenced to six months' jail.
He was sacked and lost his retirement benefits.
About two years later, he gave Mr Ramanathan and his sister a letter to sign, stating that they would be his guarantors for the lawyer's fees, which was then $25,000.
Both of them said they signed it out of a sense of duty to their father.
In 2005, Mr Ramanathan inadvertently found out that there was a lawsuit against him as his father's guarantor when his application for a loan from Singapore Post was rejected.
When Mr Ramanathan confronted his father, the cabby said that he would get the lawyer to remove his name from the lawsuit.
Mr Ramanathan said: "As he is my father, I trusted him and let the matter rest. I did not probe further."
In 2008, Mr Ramanathan received another letter from Mr Rengarajoo which stated that no payments had been made and action would be taken.
When he confronted his father, the cabby told him that he had paid Mr Rengarajoo $8,000 and that he would settle the remainder soon.
Madam Letchmi, who also testified in court yesterday, said that she found out that her father had not paid the debt when a legal letter was hand-delivered to her home in Dec 2010.
When she asked Govindasamy about it, he reassured her that he would settle the issue.
She said: "I believe there were some letters concerning the matter addressed to me by post which I did not receive.
"My father had the key to the letter box and I suspected that he kept those letters from me."
In 2011, Mr Ramanathan received another letter from B Rengarajoo & Associates stating that it wanted to seize the property in his home and that it was taking a writ against him.
He went to see Mr Rengarajoo at his office in July that year and pleaded with him to not continue with the seizure.
Mr Ramanathan said: "He was very angry and rude to me because of the non-payment of the legal fees by my father.
"He did not care and said that he would proceed. I offered to make a payment of $10,000 and pay the rest in instalments thereafter."
But he added that a Chinese woman, who was also in the office, interfered and said that it was not enough.
She told him to pay $15,000 instead, the court heard.
The trial resumes today.
ABOUT THE CASE
He was involved in a corruption trial in 2002 and engaged lawyer Rengarajoo Rengasamy Balasamy to represent him.
Taxi driver Govindasamy Nallaiah, now 70, later owed Mr Rengarajoo $38,000 in legal fees and was given a final opportunity to pay up by Aug 10, 2011.
That morning, he went to Mr Rengarajoo's law firm, B Rengarajoo & Associates, at the sixth storey of Afro-Asia Building in Robinson Road.
He entered the office and tried to negotiate with the lawyer's wife, Madam Low Foong Meng, 56, over the fee.
Govindasamy became angry when they could not come to an agreement and allegedly hit her several times on her head with a bicycle chain and lock until she collapsed.
He allegedly used a lighter to set fire to some files on a table before leaving the premises.
Madam Low, who helped with administrative work at the firm, was found dead in the office.
On Aug 12, 2011, Govindasamy was charged with Madam Low's murder.