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Indian-origin Singaporean ex-lawyer sentenced to jail for misappropriating clients' money

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Singapore, Jan 26 (PTI) An Indian-origin former Singaporean lawyer has been sentenced to jail for close to four years for misappropriating SGD 4,80,000 entrusted to him by three clients.

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According to a news report, Gurdaib Singh Pala Singh, 70, committed the offences between 2011 and 2016.

Even though the convict was struck off the rolls in 2018, he continued to act as an advocate and solicitor for a man the following year.

In July last year, Singh, who used to be a lawyer at Gurdaib Cheong & Partners (GCP), pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal breach of trust involving nearly SGD 4,59,000 and an offence under the Legal Profession Act.

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A third criminal breach of trust charge involving another SGD 21,000 was considered during sentencing.

In December 2010, Zulkifli Osman engaged GCP to provide services relating to the sale of his late father's flat. The flat was sold on July 29, 2011, and GCP later received the sale proceeds of more than SGD 3,56,000 on Zulkifli's behalf.

It was then agreed between Zulkifli and Singh that out of that sum, Zulkifli's brother was to receive SGD 1,38,876.50.

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On December 15 of that year, Zulkifli deposited SGD 1,38,876 into GCP's client account to be held in escrow as his brother's share of the sales proceeds. But between Dec 20, 2011, and May 3, 2012, Singh misappropriated Zulkifli's funds in GCP’s client account by issuing cheques for other purposes, such as paying the firm's office expenses.

Unaware that the money had been fully expended, Zulkifli made three requests to Singh between August 2012 and July 2014 to withdraw a portion of it. To meet the request, Singh disbursed SGD 10,156 to Zulkifli by using money in the GCP client account that belonged to the firm's other clients.

In June 2015, Zulkifli asked Singh to withdraw the remaining SGD 128,720 from the funds, but the offender failed to disburse any money to him.

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In an unrelated case, a company called CH Assets International entered into a memorandum of agreement to borrow USD10 million (SGD13.4 million) from United Kingdom-incorporated firm OCS Capital on Nov 5, 2014. The same day, CH Assets and Singh signed an escrow agreement that the latter prepared.

Nine days later, CH Assets deposited SGD 320,000 into GCP's client account as a deposit for the loan.

In earlier proceedings, Deputy Public Prosecutor Norman Yew said that between November 18 and December 23, 2014, Singh misappropriated the money and used it to pay for items such as GCP's office expenses.

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In June 2015, CH Assets asked Singh to return its funds as OCS Capital did not provide the loan to it.

After repeated requests for the money, Singh handed SGD 5,000 to CH Assets in September 2015. CH Assets then alerted the Law Society of Singapore on September 15, 2015.

The DPP said that from September 2015 onwards, Singh made restitution totalling SGD 58,000 to CH Assets over nine payments. Singh was struck off the rolls on February 27, 2018.

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Despite this, he agreed to represent a man in divorce proceedings after the latter met him in September 2019. Singh did not tell him that he had been struck off the rolls.

Between September 7 and 27, 2019, the man paid him SGD 1,750. The following month, Singh sent the man a draft affidavit which the former lawyer had prepared, and it was later filed with the courts.

Afterwards, Singh did not provide the man with any updates on the matter. On January 12, 2020, the man asked Singh for a full refund as he no longer wanted his services.

Singh has since returned SGD1,000 to him, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Yew.

The former lawyer's bail was set at SGD 1,00,000 on January 25 and he is expected to surrender himself at the State Courts on February 15 to begin serving his jail term of three years and 11 months. PTI GS NSD NSD

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