Director of IP firm fined $26,000 for pretending to be solicitor

Wan Ting Koh
File photo of Singapore’s currency. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

Despite not being a lawyer, he sent letters of demand on behalf of clients, prepared a sale and purchase agreement and used misleading descriptions that gave the impression that his firm was qualified to act as a solicitor.

Keith Thaddeus Kamal Tsukada, the director of a company specialising in business and management consultancy services related to intellectual property (IP), was found guilty of four charges under the Legal Profession Act (LPA). Tsukada’s firm, IP Firm Pte Ltd, was incorporated on 30 August 2010 and Tsukada is its sole registered director.

In the State Courts on Thursday (14 September), the 43-year-old admitted to three charges of acting on behalf of a client while being unauthorised to do so and one charge of wilfully using descriptions in relation to his firm which implied that it was qualified to act as a solicitor.

Two separate charges of sending e-mails threatening legal proceedings while being unauthorised were taken into consideration during sentencing. Tsukada was fined $26,000 in total for the offences, which took place between May 2014 and June 2015.

The offences came to light when the recipient of one of the letters of demand, Jaswinder Kaur, made a complaint to the Law Society of Singapore in September 2014. The authority referred the matter to the Attorney-General’s Chambers citing possible contraventions of Section 33 of the LPA by IP Firm and the matter was investigated by the Commercial Affairs Department.

In May 2014, a client had engaged the services IP Firm to claim back money owed to him purportedly for a loan extended to Kaur. In the same month, Tsukada – acting on behalf of the client – sent a letter to Kaur demanding payment, stating that the firm had been instructed to file a Writ of Summons against Kaur and to claim legal costs and interest.

The client paid Tsukada $24,580 for the services. The same thing happened in January 2015 when a private firm, Hong Hill, engaged IP Firm to claim money owed to the company. Hong Hill paid Tsukada $23,400 for the service.

In March 2015, a client who believed that Tsukada was a qualified lawyer had the latter prepare a sale and purchase agreement for the purpose of buying a company. The client made payments of $95,000 for the purchase through IP Firm. Tsukada had used a template obtained from a law firm to prepare the agreement and was paid $2,000 for its preparation.

Tsukada also used misleading descriptions on the websites of IP Firm, and Invictus Intelligence Bureau – another company he owned – which suggested that IP Firm was qualified to act as a solicitor when it was not.

Descriptions included, “You are not just hiring a lawyer – but an innovative team specializing in the areas of law”, “experienced, seasoned litigators trained in a broad area of law”. He also described the firm as a “Singapore-based law firm”.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenneth Chin said that the fundamental rationale of the LPA was to act as a regulatory safeguard to maintain the integrity and standard of the legal profession. He added that one of the key principles in the case was deterrence.

The prosecution submitted for a $34,000 fine, saying that Tsukada was never a lawyer and the benefits he obtained were not “disgorged”.

Tsukada’s lawyer Francis Goh said that his client was under the “misguided belief” that writing letters of demand were merely a way of extending his services to clients.

Tsukada was under the mistaken impression that there was no need to engage lawyers, and he did not intend to deceive, Goh said. Neither was there a deliberate attempt to “take on the mantle of a legal profession”, added the lawyer, who asked for a $14,000 fine for his client.

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