Jail for ex-lawyer who misappropriated almost $480,000, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Jail for ex-lawyer who misappropriated almost $480,000

A former lawyer who misappropriated nearly $480,000 that three clients had entrusted to him was sentenced to three years and 11 months’ jail on Jan 25.

Gurdaib Singh Pala Singh, 70, committed the offences between 2011 and 2016.

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

In July 2023, Singh, who used to be a lawyer at Gurdaib Cheong & Partners (GCP), pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal breach of trust involving nearly $459,000 and an offence under the Legal Profession Act.

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

In December 2010, a man identified as Mr 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 $356,000 on Mr Zulkifli’s behalf.

It was then agreed between Mr Zulkifli and Singh that out of that sum, Mr Zulkifli’s brother was to receive $138,876.50.

On Dec 15, 2011, Mr Zulkifli deposited $138,876 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 Mr 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 monies had been fully expended, Mr Zulkifli made three requests to Singh between August 2012 and July 2014 to withdraw a portion of it.

To meet the request, Singh disbursed a total of $10,156 to Mr Zulkifli by using money in the GCP client account that belonged to the firm’s other clients.

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

In an unrelated case, a company called CH Assets International entered into a memorandum of agreement to borrow US$10 million (S$13.4 million) from United Kingdom-incorporated firm OCS Capital on Nov 5, 2014.

That same day, CH Assets and Singh signed an escrow agreement the latter prepared.

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

In earlier proceedings, Deputy Public Prosecutor Norman Yew said that between Nov 18 and Dec 23, 2014, Singh misappropriated the monies and used them to pay for items such as GCP’s office expenses.

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, he handed $5,000 to CH Assets in September 2015. CH Assets then alerted the Law Society of Singapore on Sept 15, 2015.

The DPP said that from September 2015 onwards, Singh made restitution totalling $58,000 to CH Assets over nine payments.

Singh was struck off the rolls on Feb 27, 2018.

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 Sept 7 and 27, 2019, the man paid him $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 Jan 12, 2020, the man asked Singh for a full refund as he no longer wanted his services.

Singh has since returned $1,000 to him, said DPP Yew.

The former lawyer’s bail was set at $100,000 on Jan 25 and he is expected to surrender himself at the State Courts on Feb 15 to begin serving his sentence.