Law Bites- July 2021

LAW BITES – JULY 2021

Injunctions Against “Persons Unknown”

Cybercrime has been on the rise, making up 43% of overall crime in Singapore last year. With the
anonymity of the Internet, the question arises as to whether a victim can seek redress against an
unknown perpetrator.

While there are English court decisions on “Persons Unknown”, recently, closer to our shores,
Zschimmer & Schwarz GmbH & Co KG Chemische Fabirken v Persons Unknown & Anor [2021] 7 MLJ
178, is the first court decision in Malaysia and in Asia which delves into this issue.

Zschimmer & Schwarz GmbH & Co KG Chemische Fabirken v Persons Unknown & Anor

This case involved a “push payment fraud”, where the Plaintiff was deceived over emails into
transferring monies for a legitimate transaction into a bank account under the control of the fraudster, a
“Person Unknown”. The Plaintiff applied for a proprietary injunction and a Mareva injunction.

  • The Court has jurisdiction to grant Orders against Persons Unknown

The Malaysian High Court noted that there is nothing in the Rules of Court 2012 prohibiting the making
of an order against “Persons Unknown”. The court also approved the test in Cameron v Liverpool
Victoria Insurance Co Ltd [2019] 3 All Er 1, stipulating that the defendant, who is anonymous but
identifiable, must be described in a way that makes it possible in principle to locate or communicate
with him.

The court also drew reference to the English case of CMOC v Persons Unknown [2017] EWHC 3599
to conclude that the Plaintiff merely needs to establish a good arguable case for the court to have
jurisdiction.

  • The Court allowed for substituted service by way of Email and Advertisements

As it is impracticable to effect personal service on “Persons Unknown” whose whereabouts are
unknown, the court allowed for substituted service to be effected. First, service was allowed by way of
email to the fraudster’s fake email addresses which was the only known communication method with
the Persons Unknown. The Plaintiff can also include a link to an online Dropbox folder containing all
the cause papers in the email sent.

Second, the court also allowed for substituted service to be effected by inserting an advertisement in
the local newspaper. These two methods were considered as the most practicable methods to bring
the proceedings to the notice to the Persons Unknown.

For completeness, a further application was taken up by the Plaintiff in Zschimmer & Schwarz GmbH &
Co KG Chemische Fabriken v Persons Unknown & Anor (No. 2) [2021] 3 CLJ 587 for a selfidentification order which was granted by the court. This would require the placement of an advertisement in a local newspaper of a notice alerting the “Persons Unknown” of the order for them to self-identify and provide an address for service, failing which they risk committal proceedings.

Conclusion

This decision is a welcome development in showing that courts are not closed to adapting their
procedures to assist victims of cybercrime. It will be interesting to see how the Singapore courts will
approach this issue.

 

For more details contact:

 

Tio Siaw Min
AssociateE: siawmin@jtjb.com
T: (65) 6329 2440

 

 

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This update is for general information only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. JTJB has made all reasonable efforts to ensure the information provided is accurate at the time of publication.