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US university sues dead Singapore agent

dpa German Press Agency
Published: Sunday October 15, 2006

Singapore- An American university is suing its Singaporean agent for allegedly embezzling more than 220,000 Singapore dollars (140,000 US dollars) in prospective student fees from a Chinese bank account, The Straits Times newspaper reported Monday. The defendant, Kenneth Chen, died about a month ago.

This has not stopped Honolulu University of the Arts, Science and Humanities from proceeding with its case in the High Court to recover money from Chen's estate.

Chen, who was in his 50s, was appointed by the Hawaiian university four years ago to advise on, expand and coordinate its activities in China.

The university, established about 20 years ago, offers distance learning undergraduate and postgraduate courses in disciplines, including business administration, information technology and music.

It recruited students in China, but Chinese exchange control regulations prevented the university from opening a bank account in China to deposit the fees.

To get around the restrictions, fees from students were held in trust for the university in a personal account in the name of its president at the Bank of China.

Chen was given access to the account "for administrative convenience," the university says in court documents.

His duties included collecting fees from students. In 2003, Chen collected about 140,000 US dollars, which was to be deposited into the account and later remitted.

The university says it never received the money.

According to papers filed in the lawsuit, Chen acknowledged the 140,000-dollar debt in a promissory note he signed in November 2003, in which he agreed to repay the money in instalments.

When the first instalment of up to 15,000 dollars was due by the end of the same month, Chen paid only 1,700 dollars.

Chen's health then deteriorated, and he is believed to have suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. Attempts to refer the matter to mediation by the university failed, as Chen failed to appear.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency