Tuesday, September 11, 2007

[RealEdge] ST : Lawyer accused of pocketing client's $30k


Sep 11, 2007

Lawyer accused of pocketing client's $30k

Law firm files police report and sacks bankrupt lawyer whose whereabouts are unknown

By Teh Joo Lin & Chong Chee Kin

A PROMINENT law firm here has lodged a police report against one of its lawyers, alleging that he had pocketed about $30,000 of a client's money.

Colin Ng & Partners named him as Victor Tan, who is in his 40s and an associate of the firm. He had joined the firm about 21/2 years ago.

He has not shown up for work since Sept 3 and has been uncontactable. His whereabouts are unknown.

Following an internal investigation that raised evidence implicating him, the firm sacked him on Sept 4.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, the firm said it has also notified the Law Society.

The alleged transgression came to light on Sept 3, when a whistleblower alleged to the firm's partners that Mr Tan had 'committed a wrongdoing'.

The firm immediately launched an investigation, a spokesman said in a statement.

Mr Tan was last seen at the office on Aug 31 in what seemed like business as usual.

He is believed to have arranged to meet a foreign client and received $32,484 in cash from her in relation to a property purchase.

He allegedly neither banked the money nor told anyone he was receiving the sum on the day he met the client.

The spokesman said: 'This is a violation of the firm's policies and procedures.'

A police report was then filed and he was fired, as 'the firm takes a strict and serious view against such misconduct on the part of its staff', the spokesman said.

The incident happened two weeks after DBS Bank succeeded in its bankruptcy petition against him on Aug 17 for the $222,082 he owed.

This was not Mr Tan's first legal tangle with banks: In 2003, he was sued for $35,758 by another bank.

That suit was, however, withdrawn two months later. Lawyers said this could have happened either because he had reached a settlement or negotiated a way to repay the debt.

When The Straits Times visited his last known address, a terrace house in Bedok, no one was in.

Mr Tan graduated with a law degree from the National University of Singapore in 1985.

Colin Ng & Partners, known for offering a range of legal services, has close to 100 employees in Singapore alone.

Its website said it is one of the first law firms here to obtain a licence to operate in Beijing and the only Singapore law firm with offices in both the Chinese capital and Hong Kong.

The firm said it had 'stringent systems and processes' in place to safeguard clients' money.

In this case, however, the money never entered the system, the spokesman said, adding that the firm acted immediately on the tip-off.

Meanwhile, the client's property transaction has been successfully concluded without any losses on her end.

When contacted, the police confirmed the case and said investigations were ongoing.





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