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Defence team seeks bail for lawyer linked to missing $33m

Defence team seeks bail for lawyer linked to missing $33m

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 27 Mar 2021
Author: Shaffiq Alkhatib & Tay Peck Gek

Jeffrey Ong Su Aun is facing more than 70 charges involving $69.2 million and US$4.85 million.

Lawyers for a man facing a slew of cheating, forgery and criminal breach of trust charges involving nearly $76 million have applied for him to be granted bail, arguing that he has been in remand for two years.

In a bail review yesterday, one of Jeffrey Ong Su Aun's lawyers, Mr Tan Hee Joek, told the court that his client is a "true blue Singaporean" from a "respectable family", who also has a sibling holding a "senior position in public service".

His sibling's identity was not revealed in court.

Mr Tan also said Ong has a three-year-old son whom he "loves deeply" and stressed that his client had never been in trouble with the law prior to this case.

The lawyer, who said Ong had "derived no personal benefits" from his alleged offences, added: "He should not be deprived of bail to be granted."

The bail review has been adjourned to April 9.

The prosecution had during proceedings in 2019 objected to Ong being granted bail, arguing that he was a "flight risk".

Ong, a lawyer, is facing more than 70 charges involving $69.2 million and US$4.85 million (S$6.5 million). In total, he has been slapped with 31 criminal breach of trust charges and 45 charges for offences such as forgery and cheating.

Ong, now 43, was a managing partner of law firm JLC Advisors when more than $33 million held in escrow in the firm for a client went missing.

Escrow is an essential service in capital markets that supports transactions such as mergers and acquisitions.

Ong is no longer with the firm and a search yesterday showed he is not listed on the Legal Services Regulatory Authority E-Services.

After the monies went missing from the law firm, Ong left Singapore for Malaysia in a private-hire car on May 13, 2019.

He moved into a hotel in Kuala Lumpur and became uncontactable three days later.

However, he was tracked down and officers from the Royal Malaysia Police arrested him that same month.

Ong was found in possession of a stolen Malaysian passport that he had obtained from a friend known only as Calvin. The passport was issued to a 43-year-old man whose photograph bore some resemblance to Ong. He was repatriated to Singapore on May 30, 2019.

If convicted of criminal breach of trust as an attorney, an offender can either be jailed for life or jailed for up to 20 years and fined.

Jeffrey Ong implicates Allied Tech executive director and investor in misappropriation case

JLC Advisors former managing partner Jeffrey Ong Su Aun named executive director Kenneth Low Si Ren and investor Lin Tah Hwa of Catalist-listed precision engineering firm Allied Technologies as being responsible for the misappropriated funds that grabbed headlines two years ago.

The former lawyer, in his affidavit to support his bail review application, claimed that there were round-tripping and sham transactions involving Allied Tech driven by Mr Low and Mr Lin in 2017 and 2018, with many of these transactions not substantiated by actual flow of funds as they were merely accounting entries to set off against some sale of assets.

He cited a placement of shares in 2017 by Allied Tech, for example, that was reported to have raised S$33.8 million in proceeds - held by JLC in escrow - but S$11.7 million from the first tranche was used instead to pay for the second tranche, resulting in much less than the reported amount of proceeds, the court heard on Friday in Ong's bail review application.

Mr Lin was introduced to Ong as "being one of the largest individual forex speculators in Singapore", and is also said to be connected to the Khoo Teck Puat family through his wife Lucy Khoo Bee Lay, according to Ong's affidavit.

Ong, 43, said the fact there has not been any civil litigation by Allied Tech to recover the escrow funds corroborates his allegations.

Defended by Tan Hee Joek in the criminal proceedings, Ong wants to be bailed out so that he can take civil proceedings to recover the funds and effect restitution.

Ong also alleged that he had borrowed S$4 million to top up the escrow account that was drawn down upon instructions from Mr Low or Mr Lin.

According to him, instructions were allegedly given by either of them to release several sums of the escrowed funds in 2018 and 2019, including US$4 million to Ms Khoo.

The Business Times understands that Ms Khoo has refuted all allegations raised in Ong's affidavit, extracts of which were sent to her pursuant to the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct) Rules as she is a practising lawyer. She has said in the response that the matter is between Mr Low and Ong.

Ong faces 76 charges in total including misappropriation of funds as a lawyer, forgery and cheating, with the total sums amounting to about S$76 million, according to the prosecution. He has been in remand for almost two years.

The prosecution is against the application because Ong is deemed a flight risk. The prosecution will submit on this matter when the hearing continues on April 9.

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

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


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