Law Society to probe client accounts of law firm after $33M – and managing partner – went missing

FILE PHOTO: Getty Images

SINGAPORE — The Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc) will conduct an investigative audit on the client accounts of law firm JLC Advisors, after a sum of $33 million belonging to engineering firm Allied Technologies went missing, possibly on instruction from JLC managing partner Jeffrey Ong.

In a joint media statement with the Singapore Exchange Regulation (SGX RegCo) on Friday (24 May), LawSoc said it will inquire into all the facts and circumstances surrounding the operation of JLC’s client accounts, and the role played by Ong.

The probe is expected to decide whether Ong, who is understood to be uncontactable, will be given any disciplinary action.

Control of all monies held by JLC

LawSoc has already taken over control of all monies held by JLC, including monies held by JLC on behalf of its clients or third parties, exercising its statutory power of intervention to protect and safeguard the interests of clients and third parties.

“The Law Society would like to add that interventions of this nature due to reasonable suspicions of dishonesty are rare,” the statement said.

“Nevertheless, the Law Society does so where merited and appropriate to safeguard public interest and the integrity of the legal profession including the vast majority of Singapore lawyers, who carry out their duties with honesty, fidelity and responsibly.”

Expansion of scope of Special Audit

Meanwhile, SGX RegCo has directed Allied Technologies to expand the scope of its upcoming Special Audit to include developments surrounding the $33 million held with JLC, and the progress of its attempt to procure the funds back.

The special auditor – appointed to review observations raised by Allied Technologies’ external auditor Ernst & Young on circumstances surrounding the placing of the $33 million with JLC and concerns on various funds flow – will report solely to SGX RegCo.

Allied Tech said that it had sought repayment of the money at various times since 23 March, including a letter of demand from the company's counsel, Rajah & Tann Singapore, but JLC failed to release the funds.

Resigned as director

Ong, 42, took over the helm at the boutique law firm last year when it turned 10 years old. He has also resigned as a director of Annica Holdings Ltd, effective on 20 May.

SGX RegCo said in the joint statement, “In view of these developments, SGX RegCo will object to any future appointment of Ong as a director or executive officer of any SGX-listed company, until SGX RegCo is satisfied that the above-mentioned matters have been satisfactorily resolved.”

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