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SINGAPORE - Jeffrey Ong Su Aun, the lawyer who went missing along with $33.2 million in funds held in escrow by his firm, was handed four fresh charges on Monday (14 October).
This brings the managing partner of JLC Advisors’ total number of charges to 26.
His additional charges consist of one count of criminal breach of trust as an attorney - his first such charge - and three of forgery for the purpose of cheating.
Ong, 42, is accused of dishonestly misappropriating US$4,851,289.15 (S$6,648,352.19) from a Standard Chartered USD bank account while acting as a solicitor of JLC Advisors, on 23 October 2017.
Ong, a Singaporean, allegedly forged a statement of accounts for the months of April, May and June 2018, on 7 August last year for JLC Advisors’ Standard Chartered USD bank account. It falsely stated that some $4.8 million in respect of the Airtrust (Singapore) Limited and Wrangwell Limited Settlement was still present and unused in JLC’s bank account. The funds were held in escrow by JLC.
Ong is said to have cheated a Chan Yi Zhang into believing the monies were still there. Court documents did not state who Chan was.
The three new forgery charges are similar to the 13 forgery charges that Ong was slapped with on 20 June. These charges also involve a total sum of some US$4.8 million. These alleged offences, also involving false statements of accounts, were said to have been committed between October 2017 and February last year, and between July last year and February this year.
On Monday, Ong received the four new charges via video link, with the prosecution applying for a six-week adjournment to complete investigations. Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Khoo told the court that investigators were still recording statements relating to Ong’s other offences and might bring further charges against Ong.
No plea was taken on Monday, with the case set for a further hearing on 25 November. No bail was offered to Ong.
Details of the case
Ong allegedly went missing with $33.2 million belonging to a JLC client, Allied Technologies. The funds had been held in escrow by JLC under an agreement made in 2017.
According to court documents tendered in previous hearings, when Ong was pressed to account for the unauthorised withdrawals of client monies by the partners in his law firm on 13 May this year, he arranged for a person known as "Nicholas" to drive him to Malaysia in a private-hire car.
Ong allegedly told his wife of his plan to flee and headed to Malaysia via Tuas Checkpoint.
Ong then met with Nicholas' friend "Dennis”, and stayed in his office for a few days. "Dennis" later arranged for Ong to move to Vivatel Kuala Lumpur.
On 16 May, Ong became uncontactable after he threw away his mobile phone. He used a China SIM card on a new mobile phone which "Dennis" got him. He also used the stolen Malaysian passport of a Chinese man who had a similar age and face.
The Singapore police received a report about Ong's alleged criminal breach of trust on 21 May.
A warrant of arrest was issued four days later and Ong was arrested by Malaysian police on 29 May in his hotel room.
Ong was repatriated the next day and first charged on 1 June with one count of cheating by deceiving CCJ Investments into believing that Suite Development had entered into a loan agreement with it. CCJ Investments allegedly disbursed $6 million, of which about $3.3 million was used to refinance Suite Development’s mortgage loan and about $2.7 million was deposited into JLC’s client’s account.
On 13 June, Ong was given another eight charges of forging eight documents in order to cheat CCJ Investments into disbursing $6 million. These documents include a Deed of Charge over Shares, a Deed of Guarantee, a Mortgage (relating to three shophouses in Tanjong Katong Road), a Director’s Resolution, a Shareholder’s Resolution, and an Instrument of Transfer.
The maximum penalty for criminal breach of trust as an attorney is life imprisonment, or a jail term of up to 20 years, and a fine. If convicted of forging a document for the purpose of cheating, he faces up to 10 years jail and a fine.