29 May 2017
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Lawyer faces discipline over dodgy fund transfers

Straits Times
19 May 2017
K.C. Vijayan

He is accused of abetting money laundering based on info hacked from his computer

A lawyer whose computer was hacked and the material used to show he acted in dubious cross-border money transfers will have his case referred to a court of three judges, in decision grounds released on Wednesday.

The court will decide if Mr Allan Chan Chun Hwee can continue to practise law or be suspended or fined.

Mr Chan had pleaded guilty last year to four charges of misconduct before a disciplinary tribunal.

The tribunal probe followed an anonymous complaint to the Law Society in 2014 that he had allegedly abetted money laundering activities for two companies.

The letter included material from the hacked computer.

This is the first reported case of a lawyer being taken to task before a disciplinary tribunal for accepting and sending foreign currency without verifying source backgrounds.

Mr Chan, a lawyer of 18 years who ran his own firm, admitted he did not carry out background checks on the two companies - Institute of Business Management and Financial Services and Investment Suisse.

He had been asked by a man claiming to be a "Sir" Robert Cowley in 2006 to advise on Singapore law and to act as an escrow agent for the receipt and transmission of funds as directed by Mr Cowley and the two companies he chaired in return for a percentage fee.

The title "Sir" was self-appointed by Mr Cowley, a 73-year-old Australian who has faced legal trouble in his home country.

The complaint letter spelt out one transaction of US$1.5 million and eight transactions of over US$20,000 each. The transactions stopped after 2011.

The tribunal noted an e-mail from Mr Cowley in July 2008 which said transactions of up to €5 million could take place and Mr Chan stood to gain from fees for "no or very little legal work".

The Law Society did not accuse Mr Chan of money laundering but argued that the deals amounted to breaches of the "know your client and know your client's business" rules.

Mr Chan, who represented himself, admitted he did not verify Mr Cowley's identity beyond meeting him on a few occasions. He also did not carry out background checks on the two companies. He added that no "red flags" went off in his mind to do further background checks, explaining that as a "much younger and impressionable lawyer", he felt "privileged" to serve Mr Cowley.

The tribunal, appointed by the Chief Justice and comprising Senior Counsel Roderick Martin and lawyer Teo Weng Kie, noted he did not challenge the authenticity of the e-mails attached to the anonymous complaint, among other things. Mr Chan was ordered to pay $5,000 in costs to the Law Society.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.