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SINGAPORE — The court on Monday (12 April) denied lawyer Jeffrey Ong Su Aun from being released on bail, despite his defence team's extensive arguments.
In giving the court's decision, District Judge Terence Tay said that Ong had offered little substantiation in relation to the assertions that he had made, including a purported request for him to be in Malaysia for work purposes.
While defence counsel Tan Hee Joek had argued that Ong was summoned to Malaysia, there was evidence that outstanding matters regarding that assignment had already been finalised, noted DJ Tay. Ong is also represented by lawyers Morgan Lee and Kate Loo.
As to the stolen passport, the judge noted that even if Ong had not asked for the passport, there was no reasonable explanation as to why he kept it.
Ong, 41, had allegedly disappeared after $33 million held in escrow by his law firm was found missing. Earlier court documents revealed that he allegedly fled to Malaysia after being pressed to account for the unauthorised withdrawals of client monies by the partners in his law firm on 13 May 2019.
After he became uncontactable, a police report was made about his alleged criminal breach of trust.
A warrant of arrest was issued for him on 25 May, leading to his arrest by the Malaysian police in a hotel room days later. Among his possessions was a stolen Malaysian passport belonging to a Malaysian Chinese man, whose face and age were similar to Ong’s.
Ong was later repatriated to Singapore and charged. He was remanded, with an order of no bail made on 20 June 2019. He has been remanded for close to two years.
In total, Ong faces 76 charges, including for criminal breach of trust as an attorney, cheating, and forgery. Of these, 57 are for non-bailable offences. The total amount involved in the charges is $76 million.
In a previous bail review hearing, Tan had argued that a friend of Ong's, Calvin Lim, had passed Ong the passport when the two were having drinks.
Calvin Lim became the centre of a dispute between prosecution and Tan on Monday, with the prosecution submitting a new affidavit which Tan said showed that Lim had given false evidence to the authorities.
According to Tan, Lim earlier told the police that he did some research and found someone selling passports in the black market in China, and that he had paid for the passport.
In the new affidavit, admitted to court on Monday, Lim altered his evidence, claiming that he had obtained the passport from a person who appeared to be the cousin of the passport holder.
"With respect, given that Calvin Lim is clearly shown to be a liar, how he procured this Malaysian passport (and his claim) that it is Ong who wanted Calvin Lim to procure the Malaysian passport must not be believed by this honourable court," said Tan.
However, DJ Tay ruled that the issue of how Lim came to be in possession of the passport was a "red herring".
The judge also did not take the view that there had been an undue delay in the case, given the number and nature of charges involved. In any case, the prosecution had said it was ready to proceed to trial, added DJ Tay.
The judge upheld the court's previous decision of no bail and fixed Ong's case for a pre-trial conference in May.
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