Lawyer who pocketed S$32,000 in legal fees from 15 clients gets more than 2 years’ jail
Instead of depositing the money into Hilborne Law LLC’s accounts, he placed them into his own.
While working for a law firm, Zaminder Singh Gill pocketed S$31,550 in legal fees from 15 clients, using the money for various family expenses.
Instead of depositing the money into Hilborne Law LLC’s accounts, he placed them into his own. He was then a legal associate at the law firm.
The 57-year-old Singaporean was jailed two years and three months on Monday (Sept 28) for his actions from 2016 to 2019.
He pleaded guilty to five counts of criminal breach of trust as an attorney, the most aggravated form of the offence. Ten other similar charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.
Gill was called to the Singapore Bar in 2005, but worked with Hilborne from 2002.
He took sums ranging from S$150 to S$6,500 and has not repaid the firm. He no longer works there.
He knew he was obligated to register his clients with Hilborne and deposit the money he received from them into the firm’s client accounts, but transferred the money into his personal bank account instead.
CLIENTS MADE POLICE REPORTS
One client based in Johor Baru, Malaysia hired Gill to deal with bankruptcy proceedings against Singaporeans, because Gill was the only Singaporean lawyer he knew and who could travel to Malaysia.
The client paid S$5,000 in legal fees to Gill and requested an official receipt from Hilborne, as Gill had given him a temporary one.
They later lost contact after Gill failed to update him by email on the status of the case.
Another client hired Gill on a relative’s recommendation, to submit a variation order in his divorce proceedings. This was to vary the terms of a court order after divorce.
The victim met Gill at the void deck of the lawyer’s housing block and gave him S$1,000 in cash as a deposit that Gill had asked him to do so.
The man eventually entrusted Gill with S$2,500 in legal fees.
At least three clients filed police reports in July last year against Gill for failing to attend to their legal matters.
Gill had, however, gone abroad on June 28 that year. He said that he had broken his leg in Thailand where his partner, stepson and son lived.
He returned to Singapore in October last year and was arrested.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Stephanie Chew sought the sentence imposed, saying that Gill’s offences were premeditated and happened over an extended period.
"Lawyers trade on their honesty; they sell their trustworthiness. One of the gravest offences an advocate and solicitor could commit is to take his clients’ money.
“Further, the accused’s offences were not easy to detect and only came to light because of various complaints by clients,” the prosecutor said.
For each charge of criminal breach of trust as an attorney, Gill could have been jailed up to 20 years and fined.
In response to TODAY’s queries, a Law Society of Singapore spokesperson said that it will review the case to determine the appropriate disciplinary course of action.
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