Law Bites- July 2021
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  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  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
The court also drew reference to the English case of CMOC v Persons Unknown  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)  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.
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
JTJB Singapore Office